Muriel Rukeyser’s memory, or, the ends of poetry

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Johanna Winant and Bradley Wilson at the WVU Press–WVU Humanities Center launch for The Book of the Dead.

On February 1, the WVU Humanities Center cohosted an evening to help launch WVU Press’s lovely new edition of Muriel Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead, with a powerful introduction by West Virginia writer Catherine Venable Moore. The evening featured an interdisciplinary panel to talk about the poems, the history, and the global context of the poems and the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel disaster that the poems remembered. While the centerpiece of the evening was Moore’s reading from her essay of the same name, the panel also included historical context from Hal Gorby (History), who presented moving primary documents from those who advocated on behalf of the Hawk’s Nest workers. Bradley Wilson (Geography) put the disaster into Union Carbide’s global history of environmental disasters, noting that the Gauley Bridge Committee of advocates may have been among the first environmental justice activists in the US. Johanna Winant (English) gave the talk presented below, which asks, “What are the ends of a cycle of poems that calls itself a ‘Book of the Dead’? And indeed, what are the ends of poetry?”

This post is the first of many that we hope will be a long and fruitful exchange of ideas between the Humanities Center and WVU Press in this space. Like the rich evening of discussion that first presented this book to the public and prompted Winant’s essay, this post is an apt beginning to an intellectually exciting partnership.—Ryan ClaycombRead More »

A sales rep walks into an independent bookstore


Booktimist has showcased perspectives from authors and editors, but there are many other professionals involved in making and disseminating books. Today we hear from Bob Barnett, the regional sales manager for the University of Texas Press. He sells titles to bookstores in the southern United States for a number of university presses, including WVU.

During the annual winter meeting of publishers and booksellers, American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher referred to the “indie resurgence.” New independent bookstores are opening (40 last year) and sales have improved, year to year, for the past five years. According to a new study associated with the Harvard Business School, the resurgence of indie bookselling has been influenced by three factors – community, curation, and convening. On a recent trip to Florida, I had the chance to visit Copperfish Books for the first time. Based on my visit, I think it illustrates the three C’s of indie bookstore success.Read More »

The African American experience in Appalachia: Books, events, and articles from WVU Press

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Appalachia tends, for a variety of complex reasons, to be conflated with whiteness, and especially poor whiteness. But the region has a significant nonwhite presence and tradition — one celebrated at this parade commemorating John Brown’s raid in Charles Town, West Virginia (from our Marked, Unmarked, Remembered), and an important aspect of WVU Press’s overall publishing program. With Black History Month starting next week, it seemed like a good time to look at several books, events, and articles from the press that explore Appalachia’s diversity, and particularly its African American heritage.Read More »

“Medicine teaches three skills of high value to a writer”: Jacob Appel on The Amazing Mr. Morality


Jacob Appel is a physician, attorney, and bioethicist in New York City, where he teaches at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. His story collection The Amazing Mr. Morality will be published by WVU Press in February.

One of my favorite jokes relates the story of an impious rabbi who goes golfing on a Jewish Holy Day and is punished by God with a perfect score.  In the punchline, God asks the angels, “But who can he tell?”  My job, as an emergency room psychiatrist and hospital-based bioethicist, raises similar challenges:  I hear the most amazing, unlikely, compelling stories all day long—but the magic often lurks in the details, and both canons of medical ethics and federal law prevent me from sharing these stories with others.  (For fifty years beyond the death of the patient, at least; check back with me at the turn of the next century.)  So if I cannot write about my professional experiences, even in the most oblique or veiled manner, how does being a psychiatrist or ethicist influence my writing?Read More »

Midwinter roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events


The Los Angeles Review of Books calls Marked, Unmarked, Rememberedbrilliant and memorable,” and the book also makes BuzzFeed’s year-end list of “21 of the Most Incredible Photo Books from 2017.” Look for authors Andrew and Alex Lichtenstein at the Newberry Library in Chicago on March 8 and the Virginia Festival of the Book on March 21.

Gwynn Dujardin, Jim Lang, and John Staunton are interviewed in Inside Higher Ed about their book Teaching the Literature Survey Course, new in our series Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.

Unruly Creatures by Jennifer Caloyeras makes Bustle’s year-end list of “13 Books By and About Women That You Might Have Missed In 2017—But Shouldn’t.” It’s “a can’t-miss collection for readers who love a blend of humor, magical realism, and surrealism.” The author is interviewed in Heavy Feather Review.Read More »

Notes from a first-time novelist


Heather signs copies of Maranatha Road at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Heather Bell Adams is from Hendersonville, North Carolina, and now lives in Raleigh with her husband and son. She is the winner of the 2016 James Still Fiction Prize and her short fiction appears in the Thomas Wolfe Review, Clapboard House, Pembroke Magazine, Broad River Review, and elsewhere. Maranatha Road is her first novel and is the winner of the Knoxville Writers’ Guild Contest  Find Heather on Twitter: @heatherbelladam.

On the heels of the publication of my first novel, Maranatha Road, I’m grateful to share an inside look at how we got here.

The manuscript took about a year to write and, along the way, I received helpful feedback from novelist Amy Greene, whom I greatly admire. She was leading a workshop through the Appalachian Writing Project and, when my work obligations got cancelled at the last minute, I could take time off to attend. Amy’s encouragement fueled a mad dash to “the end” and then, of course, the real work of revising began.Read More »

Hidden headlines: What journalists get wrong about poverty

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Michael Clay Carey is author of The News Untold: Community Journalism and the Failure to Confront Poverty in Appalachia, published by WVU Press in November. Carey worked as a journalist for ten years at newspapers such as Nashville’s The Tennessean and USA Today. He is assistant professor of journalism and mass communication at Samford University in Birmingham. Find him on Twitter: @byClayCarey

BOOKTIMIST: What drew you to this topic?   

Carey: I’ve always been interested in the roles local newspapers play in communities, especially rural communities. A lot of people who write about journalism tend to focus their attention on large national news organizations in big cities, because they’re seen as more glamorous institutions. But people in small towns and underserved communities have news needs as well, and I wanted to write about the organizations that work to fill those needs.Read More »