United States Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey headlined the festival’s first in-person iteration since 2019.
Miranda Jeyaretnam, collaborating photographers
The Windham-Campbell Festival returned to campus last week, marking both the 10th anniversary of the event and the first time it was held in person in two years.
The festival held events at various campus locations from September 19-22, celebrating the Windham-Campbell Prize winners. In March, the eight winners of the prestigious literary prize received a $165,000 grant to support their writing.
Events celebrating these writers included poetry readings, dance events, book launches, lectures and film screenings, beginning with an awards ceremony and lecture by Natasha Tretheway at the Yale University Art Gallery. . Tretheway was the United States Poet Laureate for two years and won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her acclaimed collection, native guard. All events were free and open to the public.
“The on-campus organization is very open and fosters engagement between students and writers,” said Dani Sanchez ’25.
There were several Daily Wake Up events including free coffee, treats and tote bags or book giveaways. Last Thursday’s event at the Beinecke featured a poetry reading by Johnathan Mixon-Webster, a poet and conceptual sound artist from Flint, Michigan. Mixon-Webster was the winner of the Windham-Campbell Prize for Poetry in 2020.
Much of Mixon-Webster’s work focuses on the public health crisis in her hometown of Flint, depicting racial and economic violence through poetic lyricism. After receiving the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Prize for Poetry, Mixon-Webster said her main goal as a poet was to reveal what was going on in Flint. Flint was also the focus of the poems he recited while reading the Daily Wake Up.
“I loved it, partly because he’s a conceptual sound artist, his voice has rhythm, rhythm and the poems really evoke sound and rhythm alongside imagery in his work,” Sanchez said. , who attended the Mixon-Webster reading, said. “It evoked Flint’s environment and allowed the listener to confront it instead of making it a passive experience.”
Sanchez also outlined the benefits of returning the Windham-Campbell Festival to a free, in-person format. She praised the opportunity Yale has given students to interact with famous writers and diverse voices without any barriers to entry.
It’s not just students who praise the opening of the Windham-Campbell Festival. Sunil Armith, president of the South Asian Studies Council, told the News that the festival gives students the opportunity to interact directly with “some of the best writers on the planet”.
In partnership with the South Asian Studies Council, Armith hosted a reading by 2022 Poetry Prize winner Zaffar Kunial at Luce Hall on Tuesday. During the event, they launched Kunial’s new poetry collection “England’s Green”. Kunial read poems from the new collection and answered questions from Armith and the audience. Armith described Kunial’s reading as moving, well-observed, and innovative in a linguistic sense.
Student engagement at the Windham-Campbell Festival has also been high this year with a return to an in-person format as opposed to 2021’s virtual or 2020 print format.
“I was thrilled with the turnout for the event — there were students from all Yale programs and programs,” Armith wrote in an email to the News. “The students in the audience seemed delighted to have the opportunity to ask Zaffar questions and have their books signed afterwards. I think the Windham Campbell Festival is one of Yale’s treasures.
Novelist and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga, one of the winners of the Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction, also spoke at several events. One was a projection of In my father’s villagea short film on the legacy of trauma that Dangarembga produced in 2017.
Dangarembga also gave a lecture on Tuesday on “This lugubrious body”, published in 2018, the last book in his trilogy. Her previous novels include “Nervous Conditions” and “The Book of Not”.
“This Mournable Body” won the Windham-Campbell Prize this year. The novel chronicles the life of Tambudzai, a woman from Zimbabwe, Dangarembga’s home country, in the 20th century.
“I discovered that I had no intention of writing about the nation-state. I set out to write about the experiences of the person in the nation-state and found that I couldn’t really separate the two,” Dangarembga said at the event. “I found that the character [in the novel] is in a way a reflection of what happened in the country. It was not my intention. It was something that people had pointed out to me and something that I realized I had done.
The festival ended Thursday with readings by award winners at the Yale University Art Gallery.