Saturday, May 30, 2009

Writers' paradise in the Golden City

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Writers' paradise in the Golden City

Prague Summer Program cements its literary legacy in the heart of Europe

Posted: May 27, 2009

By Joann Plocková, For the Post

Writers' paradise in the Golden City

Courtesy Photo

The annual Prague Summer Program offers something many writers desire: time to focus on their craft while under the guidance of some of the most respected names in the literary field. It's this unique forum, set against one of Europe's most striking cultural landscapes, that has not only helped to distinguish this program but has also ushered in a new generation of writers hoping to take their talent to the next level.  

A joint effort between Charles University and the U.S.-based Western Michigan University, the Prague Summer Program has been going strong for the past two decades, providing a renowned four-week study-abroad program centered on the arts. While participants can choose how to focus their time, from photography to cultural and social studies, it is the writing component that has undoubtedly garnered the most attention.

"Students from scores of institutions of higher learning from all over - not only America, but the world - have attended and earned credit in the Prague Summer Program," says Richard Katrovas, the program's director. "We've had as 'students' in our workshops folks who are professors at American universities and who've published significant books."

Offered each July, the program invites writers of all levels to apply for one of the 12 available places in each of the program's five genres: fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, multigenre and playwriting/scriptwriting. There are also four fellowship positions that require candidates to be nominated by a writer who has published at least one book and also submit a sample of their work.

Prague Summer Program

The core of the program surrounds intensive morning writing workshops, weekly faculty readings and lectures and literature-based cultural studies courses. A Czech-film series, optional Czech language courses and organized trips throughout the region further strengthen the program's culture component, as does the program's A-list faculty. In addition to some of America's most eminent novelists, poets, memoirists, playwrights and short-story writers, the program's lecturers also include what Katrovas describes as "some of the luminaries of contemporary Czech literature and culture."

Dan Lamken, a poet and writing and literature teacher who attended the 2008 Prague Summer Program, cites some of these teachers when commenting on how he benefited from the program.

"The resources of Prague Summer Program were and are wonderful," he says. Besides learning from the likes of American poets Cynthia Hogue and Allison Deming, "I gained insight in the readings and lectures of Robert Owen Butler, Stuart Dybek, Ivan Klíma, Tomáš Kraus [and] highly recognized writers like Arnošt Lustig, [as well as] 'new' voices like Pavel Šrut."

Lustig, a Czech novelist who has participated in the Prague Summer Program since its inception, and former President Václav Havel, a well-regarded playwright and active supporter of the arts, were both awarded honorary doctorates from the Prague Summer Program three years ago, further helping to cement its reputation.

This year's faculty lineup is sure to do the same. Along with Lustig, Klíma and Deming, who are the 2009 special guests, this summer's program includes award-winning American author Melissa Pritchard and one of the Czech Republic's foremost literary critiques and theorists, Petr Bílek, among others.

Hana Zahradníková, the program's assistant in-country coordinator, sees enormous benefits for all those who participate.

"The Czech faculty provides a connection to the Czech environment and academia, which is very important to the program. It's a part of the program's focus to provide another perspective," Zahradníková says. "Something Richard [Katrovas] always mentions in his opening speech is, to be a good writer, you should have as broad a perspective as possible. Most participants write about their Prague experience, their change in perspective, and they keep writing about it."

It's this kind of inspiration that Katrovas hopes students sustain for years to come.  

"The Prague Summer Program encourages aspiring writers to interrogate their own literary ambitions in light of those vibrant literary traditions at the heart of Czech identity," Katrovas says. "The program has worked best when students return home, reconsidering their relation to their own artistic ambition."

Sarah Heston is one of this year's fellows. She is currently finishing her Ph.D. in nonfiction at the University of Missouri and can't wait to see what Prague has in store for her. 

"I expect to get, simply, great advice on how to sharpen my strengths in prose by borrowing from my education in poetry and how to avoid novice mistakes." explains Heston, who holds an MFA from the University of California, Irvine. "The hope for any student here is to come out of the program a better writer with more tools in their tool belt."

Roughly 20 percent of the students come from Western Michigan University, while the others come from "the likes of Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, NYU, as well as many other prestigious private and public institutions," Katrovas reports. Participants also come from various "second- and third-tier institutions as well as community colleges."

When asked about success stories of writers who have already come out of the program, Katrovas stumbles for an answer.

"There are simply too many to list," he says. "Writers who have attended the Prague Summer Program have published scores and scores of books with large commercial, as well university and small presses. Dozens of students are now teaching in colleges and universities, and are winning major awards and fellowships."

Joann Plocková can be reached at © The Prague Post 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Ambassador Poetry Project

The Ambassador Poerty project, a new online periodical featuring writers from Ontario and Michigan, is accepting submissions for its launch issue. Emerging and established poets welcome in all styles. Poetic narrative and digital artwork is also welcome. Emails containing attachments will not be opened. Please review the submissin guidelines at

Lori A. May
Founding Editor

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bonnie Jo Campbell publishes American Salvage

Bonnie Jo Campbell's third book of fiction, AMERICAN SALVAGE has been released into the wild. Booklist gave the story collection a starred review, and on Sunday, Julia Keller wrote a feature about BJC and her book in the Chicago Tribune. Read the story HERE.

After only three weeks, Wayne State University Press has done a second
printing of AMERICAN SALVAGE. Be sure to attend her Kalamazoo Book Release Party at Bell's Brewery, on May 24, the Sunday before Memorial Day, from 2-8 pm. As well as books and beer, there will be readings, art, music, pin the tail on the donkey, Kalamazoo's biggest ball of string, lots of temporary tattoos and more. BJC will read at 3:00. If you have any questions, contact BJC at

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

MFA Alumni Roy Seeger Reading at the KBAC

The Kalamazoo Book Arts Center announces a next installment in their “Poets in Print” reading series, featuring poets Matt Hart, Gina Myers, and Roy Seeger. The event will be held on Saturday, May 16th, in Suite 103 A of the Park Trades Center at 326 W. Kalamazoo Ave in downtown Kalamazoo. Doors open at 6:30 and the reading starts at 7:00 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Matt Hart is the author of the poetry collections Who’s Who Vivid (Slope Editions, 2006) and YOU ARE MIST (MOOR Books, forthcoming), as well as the chapbooks, Revelated (Hollyridge Press, 2005), Sonnet (H_NGM_N Books, 2006), and Simply Rocket (Lame House Press, 2007). Additionally, a collaborative chapbook, Deafening Leafening, with poet Ethan Paquin, has just been published by Pilot Books. His poems and reviews have appeared in many print and online journals, including Coldfront, Gulf Coast, Harvard Review, Jubilat, and Octopus. He lives and teaches in Cincinnati where he edits Forklift, Ohio: A Journal of Poetry, Cooking, & Light Industrial Safety.

Gina Myers is the author of the chapbooks Behind the R (ypolita press, 2008) and Fear of the Knee Bending Backwards (H_NGM_N B_ _KS, 2006). She currently lives in Saginaw, MI, where she makes books for Lame House Press. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in CARVE, The Canary, H_NGM_N, No Tell Motel, and elsewhere.

Roy Seeger earned his M.A. in poetry from Ohio University in 2000 and his M.F.A in poetry from Western Michigan University in 2005 where he was Poetry Editor for Third Coast. He is currently a Full English Professor at the University of South Carolina, Aiken where he lives with his wife, the poet Amanda Rachelle Warren, and their small gray dog, Bruce. His chapbook, The Garden of Impro-bable Birds (2007) is available through Gribble Press, and his collection The Boy Whose Hands Were Birds (2008) was the winner of the 2008 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Contest. His poems have appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, 32 Poems, Mississippi Review, Verse, Gulf Coast, Hotel Amerika, The Laurel Review, Southeast Review, Main Street Rag, Quarter After Eight as well as other journals.

A broadside created by artist Jeff Abshear featuring works by the poets will be available for sale at the event. Jeff Abshear, the Director of the KBAC, was a Fulbright Research Scholar to Venice, Italy, where he worked at the Accademia di Belle Arti and studied the history of Italian printing, bookbinding, and papermaking. He has also taught Book Arts to children at the Scuola Didactica di Thiesi in Sardinia, Italy, and at Interlochen Center for the Arts.

MCEA Call for Papers

The Michigan College English Association’s Conference is on Friday, October 2, 2009. The theme is “In Times of Crisis.” Our keynote speakers are Sari Adelson and Mary Heinen, Coordinators of the Prison Creative Arts Project, a program that collaborates with incarcerated youth and adults, urban youth, and the formerly incarcerated to do creative expression, especially in theater, poetry, and art. The MCEA conference will take place at Eastern Michigan University in the Student Center at 900 Oakwood St., Ypsilanti, MI 48197. The Michigan College English Association invites proposals for individual papers and for complete or open panels. We welcome proposals from experienced academics as well as from young scholars and graduate students. We encourage a variety of papers, including pedagogical and scholarly essays. We also welcome poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction from creative writers. We will award a prize for the best scholarly paper and for the best creative writing by a graduate student. Proposals are due by Friday, September 11, 2009. Early submissions are welcome. Please submit proposals to Charles Cunningham and Ed Demerly, Program Chairs, via email at and Please specify your needs for audio-visual equipment and the best time of day for your presentation.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Comparative Drama 43/1 Published

The most recent issue of Comparative Drama is now in print. It contains the following essays and reviews:

Dumb Readings and Acoustic Shocks: The Noise of the Mute in Jonson’s Epicene, Adrian Curtin
“Whom Seek Ye, Sirs?”: The Logic of Searching in the York Herod and the Magi, Nicole Rice
From Saint Genesius to Kean: Actors, Martyrs, and Metatheater, Mary Ann Frese Witt
The Scriblerian Stage and Page: Three Hours After Marriage, Pope’s “Minor” Poems, and the Problem of Genre-History, Katherine Mannheimer
Roman World, Egyptian Earth; Cognitive Difference and Empire in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, Mary Crane

Urban Theatre in the Low Countries: 1400-1625, Elsa Strietman and Peter Happé, eds. Reviewed by M. M. Brown
Brecht at the Opera, by Joy Calico. Reviewed by Michael Ewans
Laughing Matters: Farce and the Making of Absolutism in France, by Sara Beam. Reviewed by Aurelie Capron
Theatre Censorship: From Walpole to Wilson, David Thomas, David Carlton, and Anne Etienne, eds. Reviewed by Robert Goldstein
Generating Theatre Meaning: A Theory and Methodology of Performance Analysis, by Eli Rozik. Reviewed by Erika Fischer-Lichte
The Staging of Romance in Late Shakespeare: Text and Theatrical Technique, by Christopher J. Cobb. Reviewed by Tom Bishop
Shakespeare’s Practical Jokes: An Introduction to the Comic in His Works, by David Ellis. Reviewed by Pamela Brown

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Tournament of Tottenham LIVE

During the 44th Medieval Congress, the Tournament of Tottenham, a short late medieval humorous poem was performed by students, staff, and faculty of the English Department/Comparative Drama and many friends and colleagues. The pictures here may not do justice to the actual feats performed. No actors or members of the audience were harmed during the experiment.

44th Medieval Congress

Paul Szarmach, now Ececutive Director of the Medieval Academy of America, returned to WMU for the 44th International Medieval Congress, with successor Jim Murray welcoming congress participants in the background.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Department Meeting Schedule 2009-10

English Department meetings will be held in Brown 3025 on the following Fridays from 10:30 am-12:30 pm:

Fall 2009
Friday, September 25
Friday, October 16
Friday, November 20
Friday, December 11
Spring 2010
Friday, January 29
Friday, February 19
Friday, March 19
Friday, April 16

Friday, May 1, 2009

Duets: Johnston & Percy

The Kalamazoo Public Library Presents Duets with Johnston & Percy

Wednesday, May 6, 2009; 7 pm - 8:30 pm; 315 S Rose St, Kalamazoo
Writers Arnold Johnston and Deborah Ann Percy-Johnston will read from Duets: Love Is Strange, their recently published book of one-act plays that explores relationships between men and women. Johnston also will read from The Witching Voice, his new novel about the life of Robert Burns.