by Kieran Cook
With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting our routines, EIU’s annual Lions in Winter reading event will be conducted virtually. Being a member of the creative writing community myself, I will surely miss the physical atmosphere of a reading event, where an audience of writers and listeners gathers to watch their peers showcase their creativity and express various perspectives through the art of words. While a computer screen and whatever setting you can find will replace the usual seminar and band rooms of Doudna Fine Arts Center on campus, keeping the spirit of the writing community alive is vital, no matter the distance or location.
For this year’s event, we will have three featured writers presenting themes of Native American culture, background, and identity through their written work: Novelist Brandon Hobson, poet Joan Kane, and the current poet laureate of the United States, Joy Harjo. A fourth event is still in the works.
Brandon Hobson will be giving a reading and craft talk Friday, December 4, for the first event of this year's festival. Hobson is the author of the upcoming novel, The Removed, and his most recent novel, Where the Dead Sit Talking, was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award, and considered for the Dublin International Literary Award. His work been described by author J.C. Hallman as “like being up in that heaven, fixed and distant, watching his characters scurry about in pursuit of their spirits and their fates.” Hobson is an assistant professor of English at New Mexico State University and teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. He is also an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation Tribe of Oklahoma.
A reading and craft talk with poet Joan Kane will take place Thursday, February 4, 2021. Kane has authored seven poetry collections including The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife (2009), Hyperboreal (2013), and The Straits (2015), to name a few. “Quiet but never silent, Hyperboreal embodies the landscape it seeks to represent. Through observation and lived experience, these poems are indicative of an ever-watched and yet not always understood world. Here there is existence where humans are only a fragment,” says poet Alyse Bensel.
A winner of a Whiting Writer’s Award and Creative Vision Award from United States Artists, Kane also holds fellowships and residencies with the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, the Rasmuson Foundation, the Alaska State Council on the Arts, and the School for Advanced Research. Kane grew up and still lives in Anchorage, Alaska, graduated with honors from Harvard College, earned her MFA from the Columbia University School of Arts, and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts.
Joy Harjo, appointed to a second term as poet laureate of the U.S. in April 2020, is an author of nine books of poetry, including She Had Some Horses (1983), In Mad Love and War (1990), and An American Sunrise (2019). Harjo has written plays, children’s books, and a memoir titled Crazy Brave. She has acquired many honors such as the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. A chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Harjo is also a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. She is a Tulsa Artist Fellow in her current residency of Tulsa, Oklahoma. EIU English Department’s Dr. Jeannie Ludlow says, “People who love poetry will treasure her work. And people who do not love poetry may find in Harjo a poetic voice they can connect with.” For those who aren’t big on creative writing, let alone poetry, this should spark some interest.
Lions in Winter is supported this year by an NEA Grant to Booth Library through the Big Read program as well as the New and Emerging Artists Fund of the Doudna Fine Arts Center. You can register through the 2021 Lions in Winter website, located here: https://thekeep.eiu.edu/lionsinwinter/.
All times are listed in Central Standard Time.
Brandon Hobson: 12/4/2020 (5:00 pm-5:45 pm and 5:50 pm-7:00 pm)
Joan Kane: 2/4/2021 (5:00 pm-5:45 pm and 5:50 pm-7:00 pm)
Joy Harjo: 1/30/2021 (1:00-2:00 pm)
Decatur, IL, native Kieran Cook is a 2020 graduate of Eastern Illinois University and a poet. His writing has appeared in Phizzogs and is forthcoming in The Vehicle. He is also a former student reader at Lions in Winter. The photo at right is from Kieran's reading during last year's festival.You can follow Kieran on social media, where he showcases poetry: on Instagram @authentiklines and on Facebook @KieranCook.