Spring brings mini-festival of words, music to Southwest series

A "mini-festival" of literary and musical events from Thursday, April 29, through Saturday, May 1, concludes The Literary Southwest series winter/spring 2010 season at Yavapai College.

All Literary Southwest programs and companion events are free and open to the public.

Leading off the mini-festival is a multi-genre reading by Yavapai College creative writing students on Thursday, April 29. The reading begins at 6 p.m. in the Yavapai College Library's Susan N. Webb Community Room (Bldg. 19, Room 147) on the Prescott campus.

The centerpiece of the three-day schedule is a Literary Southwest program on Friday, April 30, at 7 p.m., featuring writer Ann Cummins and, to cap National Poetry Month, celebrated poet David St. John. This event is also in the Yavapai College Library's Community Room. A Q&A session and book signing follow the reading.

Saturday, May 1, brings a double-header - two events combining literature and down-home music. At 2 p.m. in the Founders Suite of the Prescott Public Library, Cummins will give a special reading of her new work, backed by her musician husband, Arizona Blues Hall of Famer S.E. Willis. Then, at 8 p.m. in a special Literary Southwest partner event, Willis and his band take the stage at the Raven Café for a lively evening of American roots rock. The Raven Café is located at 142 N. Cortez St. in Prescott.

Cummins is the author of a short story collection, Red Ant House, a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and Northern California Book Award winner, and a novel, Yellowcake, which was a San Francisco Chronicle notable book and Best of Kirkus, 2007. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney's, and elsewhere and have been anthologized in a variety of series including The Best American Short Stories, The Prentice Hall Anthology of Women's Literature and The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories.

She's a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the University of Arizona writing programs. A 2002 recipient of a Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship, she divides her time between Oakland, Calif., and Flagstaff, where she teaches creative writing at Northern Arizona University.

St. John has been honored, over the course of his career, with many of the most significant prizes for poets, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, both the Rome Fellowship and the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the O.B. Hardison Prize (a career award for teaching and poetic achievement) from The Folger Shakespeare Library and a grant from the Ingram Merrill Foundation. His work has been published in countless literary magazines, including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Harper's, Antaeus, and The New Republic and also has been widely anthologized.

He has taught creative writing at Oberlin College and Johns Hopkins University and currently teaches at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he served as director of the doctoral program in literature and creative writing. St. John is the author of nine collections of poetry (including Study for the World's Body, nominated for The National Book Award in Poetry), and most recently, The Face: A Novella in Verse, as well as a volume of essays, interviews and reviews entitled Where the Angels Come Toward Us.

He is currently completing a new volume of poems entitled, The Auroras. He is also the co-editor, with Cole Swensen, of American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry.

S.E. Willis is originally from West Virginia and has been playing the piano and harmonica since the age of 6 and organ and accordion since his teens. He started playing in rock and roll bands along Arizona's stretch of Route 66 in 1967.

Willis' music is deeply rooted in traditional American forms: blues, boogie-woogie, country, rockabilly, gospel, and zydeco. A veteran bandleader, Willis has taken a supporting role in bands with such artists as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddly, Albert King and Jimmy Rogers. He sang for three years with the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir and appeared on its 1995 CD, We've Come a Mighty Long Way. He worked another three years with founding Meters member and New Orleans drumming legend Joseph (Zigaboo) Modeliste and appears on his first solo release, the CD, Zigaboo.Com.

Since then, Willis has joined the Elvin Bishop Band and is featured on the Alligator Records CD, That's My Partner, with Elvin Bishop and Little Smokey Smothers, which was named best R&B Record of 2000 by the California Music Awards. Willis was inducted into the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame in 1998. He is currently touring with Elvin Bishop and has released four CDs, Airn Beats Nairn, Luckiest Man Alive, Taproot, and a new CD of country-influenced songs, Cold Hand In Mine, which was released on his own Mr. Suchensuch label.

For complete author and series information, visit: www.yc.edu/HASSAYAMPA/. Or contact either series director Jim Natal through the communications division at 928-776-2276 / james.natal@yc.edu , or Gwen Raubolt, Yavapai College quad-city communications manager, at 928-776-2288 / Gwen.Raubolt@yc.edu.