Reissenweber’s “Literary Life”

Professor Brandi Reissenweber went to Africa last year as part of the Ayual Community Development Association to assess development needs in Southern Sudan. Though known mostly for her fiction, Brandi wrote an article about her trip and the Lost Boys of Sudan that was published in “The Literary Life” department of Poets & Writers Magazine. “Crazy with Song: Discovering Story in Southern Sudan” delves into the relationship between storytelling and survival. It appears in the January-February ’09 issue, which is in bookstores now!

Sweet Home, English House!

Majors and minors enjoyed the annual Holiday Party at Professor Pam Muirhead’s house on December 4. The decades-old tradition includes food, lively conversation with students and professors, a book grab bag (which provides every student with a new volume), and entertainment. Students who attend more than once begin to notice other traditions, like Professor Bowman’s cheesecake, Professor Bushman’s guacamole, or Professor Muirhead’s little hot dogs. The party is always held at the home of a faculty member who lives within walking distance of campus, and because it’s a registered event students who are 21 can toast the (almost) end of the semester.

In previous years, students supplied the entertainment, digging deep into their bags of creativity to come up with literary takes on holiday traditions. But this year there was a surprise appearance by the Muse Brothers—Jake (Plath) and Elwood (Theune)—who performed three songs: “End of Semester Blues,” a beatnik coffee-house style jazz number called “Snowflake,” and that old Blues Brothers standard with an English department twist, “Sweet Home, English House.” 

I leave it to you to decide whether the audience was appreciative or horrified. All I know is that once they got over the shock of it all, we even had people singing along on the “Sweet Home, English House” chorus.  It was a fun way to bring the semester to a close, and a nice break (for faculty as well as students) between classes and the start of finals. 

Sigma Tau Delta Book Club title announced

This year’s Sigma Tau Delta Book Club selection is A Shortcut in Time (2003) by Charles Dickinson, whose fiction and non-fiction have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, and The New York Times Book Review. Dickinson, an editor at the Chicago Tribune, won praise for his previous novels Waltz in Marathon (1983), Crows (1985), The Widows’ Adventures (1989), and Rumor Has It (1991). He is also the author of a collection of short fiction, With or Without: And Other Stories (1987). 

To participate in the STD Book Club, all you have to do is pick up a copy of A Shortcut in Time and read it before February 26, then come to the STD meeting on that day and enjoy a lively discussion of the book . . . with Dickinson on hand to offer insights, answer questions, and sign books. 

Copies of the book are available at the IWU Bookstore, and the STD board suggests that students might pick up a copy with the money they get back from selling all those unwanted fall semester textbooks. Copies are also available online from such standard sources as

Alumnus offers free performance poetry download

Jeff Stumpo (’03), who will come to IWU on Feburary 17 to perform and talk to classes, has announced a free download of his new performance poetry album, Arts & Crafts. Stumpo made the album with the help of grad school friends, and it includes several poems that are already being taught in university classrooms:  “ADD TV” and “There will be no reinvention of the wheel.” Included is footage of Stumpo and the Bryan slam team at NPS 2007. You can download Arts & Crafts at his website link.

Diaz receives an NEA Fellowship

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) today announced its first round of funding for fiscal year 2009, and among those awarded a Creative Writing Fellowship is the newest member of the IWU English department, Professor Joanne Diaz.

Forty-two poets were chosen to receive $25,000 each. Joanne was the only poet from Illinois to receive a fellowship in poetry this first round. The poems she submitted are from a section of her manuscript-in-progress, tentatively titled Larry David on Corregidor. According to Joanne, the poems explore how we think about illness and memories of the dead. “The NEA grant will allow me to complete my work on this manuscript and, more broadly, to continue my use of long, discursive lines that explore the intersections between history, medicine, and the body.”

The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established, bringing the arts to all Americans and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the NEA is the nation’s largest funder of the arts.

This is the first time that an IWU faculty member has received an NEA Fellowship, and so to Joanne, who came to us via the Graduate Program in English at Northwestern University, we offer a very enthusiastic and boisterous CONGRATULATIONS!