This weekend, don’t miss one of the biggest cultural events that has happened in Fayetteville in 1000 years. The Frank Stanford Literary Festival (yeah, we already told you about it) starts this Friday, Oct 17th, and goes through Sunday the 19th.
We got in touch with Matt Henriksen, one of the organizers, and he answered some questions about the festival for us.
Fayetteville Flyer: Who came up with the idea for the festival?
Matt Henriksen: Tony Tost mentioned the idea while I was still living in Brooklyn. We knew our old pals from the MFA Program, Adam Clay and Shannon Jonas, would be down, but we had no idea we’d have a mass pilgrimage. We got in touch with Susan Scarlata, the editor of Lost Roads (founded by Stanford and C.D. Wright in Fayetteville in 1977), and she not only approved of the idea but took an active part in planning.
FF: Who are some writers coming to town that you guys are most excited about?
MH: Foremostly, Irv Broughton and Ralph Adamo, along with Bill Willett (who decalres he’s not a poet), have made the work of putting the festival together worthwhile. Irv published seven of Stanford’s books in his lifetime, shot the biopic It Wasn’t a Dream It Was a Flood, and published a fantastic book of poems on Lost Roads. Adamo, who met Stanford while in the MFA program in Fayetteville, is one of the best poets to come out of the program, one I’ve admired as long as I have Stanford, and who also published on Lost Roads, among other places. All three of them knew Stanford well, and their collective time with him covers every point in his life from the age of twelve to 29, when he died.
I’m also excited about Graham Foust, Philip Jenks, Anne Boyer, Tony Tost, Prageeta Sharma, and Joshua Marie Wilkinson, a cast of recognizable emerging poets who happen to be among my favorites. I tend to get more excited about the lesser known poets, Maureen Alsop, Bronwen Tate, Joseph Bradshaw, Mathais Svalina, Abraham Smith, Sandra Simonds and Brandon Shimoda. The list goes on. People will have their own favorites from the lot. I wasn’t judicial or objective in who I invited: I brought people I find engaging, and most of the people coming read for us at one time or another in Brooklyn and knocked out their audiences.
FF: Who are some of the local writers that will be doing readings?
MH: Carolyn Guinzio and Michael Heffernan, both from Fayetteville, have books just out from small presses. While in Brooklyn, I would brag up Guinzio to any editor in earshot. I think she’s a secret that needs exposure. She writes gorgeous, crystal-dense lyrics that blow most everything else of that sort away. I guess because she is a mom and lacks the time and desire to push her work out there, it’s gone under the radar, but that’ll change. Heffernan won the Iowa Poetry Prize years ago and has published in the elite journals, but he has recently engaged in the small press poetry world. It’s more fun with small presses, and I think you find more exciting poetry there. Heffernan has blank verse down like it’s breathing.
FF: We know people should come for the whole weekend, but if they could only come for one portion of the festival, what would you recommend they absolutely not miss?
MH: If you spend an hour, maybe even less, sitting in the Metro District Building while we read The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You, you’re going to understand the intensity and uniqueness of Stanford’s work. It’s epic; we’ll need at least twelve hours to read the poem. I suspect at least one or two dozen of us will actually hang out for the enitre thing, and that’s a testament to the importance of Stanford to those of us supporting the festival. There’s a reason why his poems have survived out-of-print for thirty years. He was magnificently ambitious and savagely human.
FF: What does Frank Stanford’s legacy mean for writers in Arkansas?
MH: I can’t say much about that. I spent three years here as a graduate student, shuffled off to Brooklyn for four years, and just recently returned. I wish I could say I’m a Southern writer and keep the company of Stanford, Robert Penn Warren, and George Garrett. But I’ve found that Stanford is important to almost anyone who has spent time with his work. He absorbed the language and landscape of the delta, where he grew up, and his poems come across as belonging in the places where they were written. I wonder if someday it’ll be a point of bragging to say Stanford wrote in Fayetteville, as Oxfordians brag about Faulkner.
FF: If someone isn’t familiar with Stanford’s work, what’s the one work that they should check out first?
MH: Sure. Almost any of them. But I tend to send people to “Freedom, Love and Revolt,” which describes in prolonged detail two lovers getting shot in their kitchen. You get the violence and beauty all at once, and it’s painful to read. I read it all the time. It’s available at The Academy of American Poets website here.
For more information about the festival, including a full schedule of events, visit the official website.