Fairmont State University's Kestrel to host Symposium at Folklife Center

Fairmont State’s Kestrel: A Journal of Literature and Art will host its first in-person gathering since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic April 8 – 9 at the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center.

The aim of the Writing Through the Pandemic: Contemporary Folklore Symposium is to begin the important work of documenting the effects of pandemic conditions on art and literature as they register the profound shifts in our experience of time, awareness of mortality, sense of purpose and confrontations with national history. This symposium will feature two panel discussions about these changes and their immediate and potential impact on folklore.

“I am thrilled that we are able to, once again, meet face to face as a community,” said Fairmont State University President, Mirta M. Martin. “Symposia like this are always educational and informative. This symposium also offers us a chance to share our thoughts about how the shared, global pandemic is impacting how we create art, and the stories our art will tell, post-pandemic. I urge anyone interested in folklore and the artistic process to attend.”

The first of the panel discussions will take place on Friday, April 8 from 2 – 4 p.m., featuring Douglas Van Gundy, Director of the MFA writing program at West Virginia Wesleyan and author of a collection of poems, A Life Above Water; Sally Rosen Kindred, author of Book of Asters and No Eden, along with three chapbooks, including Says the Forest to the Girl; Jane Varley, author of the memoir, Flood Stage and Rising, and a poetry chapbook, Sketches at the Naesti Bar; and Robert Wallace, author of the collection, Hawk on a Power Line. Sessions on Friday will continue from 6 – 8 p.m. as all participating writers gather to read from their work, with a reception to follow.

The symposium will continue on Saturday, April 9 from 1 – 2 p.m., with a special student editors panel from Fairmont State’s student literary and art journal, Whetstone, and Muskingum’s, First Circle, to discuss editorial and academic experiences relative to the pandemic. Another panel discussion will follow from 2 – 4 p.m., featuring Bob Kunzinger, the author of nine collections of creative nonfiction, including his new memoir, The Iron Scar: A Father and Son in Siberia; Daniel McTaggart, who has been named West Virginia’s Beat Poet Laureate and whose latest collection of poetry is Midnight Muse in a Convenience Store; Ellen McGrath Smith, whose collections of poetry include Scatter, Feed and Nobody’s Jackknife; Natalie Sypolt, the author of the collection of short stories The Sound of Holding Your Breath; and Randi Ward, a poet, translator, lyricist and photographer from Belleville, West Virginia, whose work has appeared in many journals and been featured on Folk Radio UK, National Public Radio and PBS NewsHour.

All events are free for in-person public attendance, and will take place at the Fairmont State University Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center. The events will also be available for viewing from a Facebook livestream. The Kestrel Symposium is supported by a grant from Fairmont State University.

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