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Week of 3 December 1999

Vol. III, No. 16

Feature Article

Annual faculty reading a literary who's who

By Eric McHenry

It had to happen: the annual reading of the Creative Writing Program faculty has moved to a bigger venue.

For the past two years, people have packed the little BU Playwrights' Theatre for the event. They've spilled into the foyer and onto the stage. Audience members have sat on benches, stools, and an upright piano. Others have stood for the entire reading. Some have been turned away at the theater door, or when the foyer filled, at the building's entrance.

"I like that crush at the door," says Leslie Epstein, who directs the Creative Writing Program. "It's exciting. But it's not fair that people have to stand the whole time, or to those who just can't get in."

This year's reading, on December 6, will be held in a facility that can better accommodate the inevitable throng -- the School of Management Auditorium. The growing celebrity of BU's creative writing faculty, Epstein says, made the move imperative. Readers will include Robert Pinsky, CAS professor of English and poet laureate of the United States, and Derek Walcott, CAS professor of creative writing and 1992 Nobel laureate, who sat on the stage floor for much of last year's reading.

"It's not that we have any greater people," says Epstein. "It's that the people we have are greater. Pinsky wasn't a laureate before. Walcott wasn't always a Nobel prizewinner. Susanna Kaysen didn't have a movie coming out."

The movie, Girl, Interrupted, based on Kaysen's eponymous memoir, will open nationwide in January. Kaysen, who has taught BU graduate fiction workshops three of the past four years, will fly to Los Angeles the day after the reading to attend the Hollywood premiere.

UNI Professor Geoffrey Hill, one of the world's most widely acclaimed and anthologized poets, will participate this year in his first faculty reading. A scholar of religion and 17th-century literature, Hill does not teach creative writing workshops. But "he's very important to the program," Epstein says, "because a lot of our students take his courses."

Rounding out the reading's bill will be Epstein, whose novel Ice Fire Water: A Leib Goldkorn Cocktail -- Three Tales of Love (W. W. Norton & Co., 1999) has been the subject of enthusiastic write-ups in the New York Times Book Review and the Los Angeles Times; Ralph Lombreglia, whose smart, humorous novel and short story excerpts have been huge hits at past readings; and esteemed poet Rosanna Warren, who was recently appointed Arthur G. B. Metcalf Professor of the Humanities.

The faculty has dedicated the reading to the memory of George V. Higgins, novelist and creative writing professor, who died last month.

The Creative Writing Program's annual faculty reading will begin at 8 p.m. Monday, December 6, in the SMG Auditorium, 595 Commonwealth Ave. For more information, call 353-2510.