Jan. 28, 2010

Sixth annual "Wildness, Wilderness" symposium is this weekend

by Tim Greene, News Service

With news dominated by a continuing war on terrorism, a worldwide economic crisis and now, the tragic earthquakes in Haiti, the world hasn't appeared to be such a beautiful place of late. But Iowa State's sixth annual symposium on "Wildness, Wilderness and the Creative Imagination" will seek to find beauty in a broken world Jan. 29-31.

Hosted by the Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and environment program, the annual environmental literary festival will feature award-winning authors, poets and filmmakers. They'll present readings, poetry performances, panel discussions, documentary films and live music related to this year's theme, "Things Fall Apart: Finding Beauty in a Broken World." All events are free and open to the public.

"We wanted to bring writers, artists and humanities scholars who have something meaningful to say about ideas and issues related to the environment about which we all care," said Debra Marquart, professor of English, author and director of the symposium. "So the symposium is seen as an opportunity to gather, share ideas, collaborate and be inspired."

This year's symposium features keynoters Terry Tempest Williams -- author of the groundbreaking memoir, Refuge, and her latest book, Mosaic: Finding Beauty in a Broken World -- and Rick Bass, a former petroleum geologist who now writes and is an environmental activist in western Montana. The event also will showcase two award-winning documentaries -- one on the largest oil find in North American history and including a director's talk -- and a reading by four-time national poetry slam champion Patricia Smith, from her new book about the devastation following Hurricane Katrina. Some of Iowa State's brightest stars also will be featured.

All events are in the Memorial Union Sun Room, unless noted.

Wilderness banner


Friday, Jan. 29
7-8:30 p.m., Ames Public Library
Poetry/puppet performance by Mary Swander and Eulenspiegel Puppet Co., The Girls on the Roof
Iowa's poet laureate, Swander will partner with the internationally renowned puppet company to act out a poem based on selections from Swander's The Girls on the Roof. The book-length narrative poem features the story of a mother and daughter stranded on the rooftop of Crazy Eddie's Café on the banks of the Mississippi River for three days during the flood of 1993. A book signing and reception will follow.

Saturday, Jan. 30
10 a.m.-noon, documentary, Under Our Skin: There's No Medicine for Someone Like You
The award-winning documentary, directed by Andy Abrahams Wilson, is designed to show the truth behind Lyme disease. The film provides a personal view of those affected by one of the world's fastest growing and controversial epidemics.

1-2 p.m., fiction reading by Ben Percy, ISU English, The Wilding
Percy will read from his forthcoming novel, The Wilding. Past recipient of the Plimpton Prize and a Pushcart Prize, Percy has had work published in Esquire, Men's Journal, the Chicago Tribune and Best American Short Stories.

2:15-3:15 p.m., reading by ISU writers, Flyway's "Home Voices"
Writers from the MFA program in creative writing and environment will read from their creative work, featuring themes of environmental imagination. The readers were selected from a competitive pool of submissions by the staff of Flyway, a journal of writing and environment. The winner's work will be published in 2010.

3:30-5 p.m., panel discussion with keynoters Terry Tempest Williams and Rick Bass, "Meaningful Work: The Writer as Citizen"
The authors will discuss the responsibility of writers in a changing and imperiled environmental landscape. Dean Bakopoulos, ISU assistant professor in the creative writing and environment program, will moderate the discussion.

8 p.m., MU Great Hall, lecture by Terry Tempest Williams
Williams will discuss her most recent work, Mosaic: Finding Beauty in a Broken World.

Sunday, Jan. 31
10 a.m.-noon, documentary and director's talk by Noah Hutton, Crude Independence
The debut film by the 21-year-old Hutton won the 2009 Best Documentary Award at the Oxford Film Festival. It tells the story of Stanley, N.D. -- a small, rural town that sits atop the largest oil discovery in the history of North America. It documents the impact of the U.S. demand for oil and global energy markets on America's heartland.

1-2 p.m., poetry reading by Patricia Smith, Blood Dazzler
The national poetry slam champion will read from her new collection of poems, Blood Dazzler, which chronicles the human, physical and emotional toll exacted by Hurricane Katrina. Smith's poems track Hurricane Katrina as it transforms into a full-blown "mistress of destruction."

2-3 p.m., panel discussion featuring authors Patricia Smith and Benjamin Percy, "Aftermath: Narrating Disaster"
Smith and Percy will discuss how themes of violence, destruction and disaster -- personal, cultural, environmental -- factor into their writing. Assistant professor of English David Zimmerman will moderate the discussion.

3 p.m., concert by Jen McClung, poet/singer/songwriter
McClung will perform songs from her newest CD, Over and Over, and other new selections.

3:30-4:30 p.m., Dessert reception

7-9 p.m., reading by Rick Bass, The Lives of Rocks: Field Notes on Finding Home
A former gas and oil geologist who is now is an author and conservationist, Bass will read from his latest work. He has actively worked to protect Montana's Yaak area from roads and logging, and serves on the board of the Yaak Valley Forest Council and Round River Conservation Studies. A book signing and reception will follow.