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Where have all the Beatniks gone?

11:59 AM  Apr 12th, 2013
by Emma Jarman '11

The last class I ever left as an undergraduate at UD in 2011 was Creative Nonfiction, with Dr. Meredith Doench, and from it I took with me three things:

1. The pleasure in the confusion of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City.

2. Quotes don’t necessarily need quotation marks, especially if they aren’t necessarily quotes.

3. LitFest.

LitFest, urged my professor, as my classmates and I sat around a lecture table 2 feet wider than the room itself, is the most important literary event on campus.

The two-day festival is a celebration of literature and fine arts hosted by the University of Dayton’s English department. Since 2002 it has been held either annually or biennially, and sees a convergence of the University and the Dayton community over both up-and-coming as well as established American writers and poets.

This year’s installment, themed “Crossing Boundaries, Crossing Frontiers” and held last weekend, featured poetry readings by Ruth Ellen Kocher and David Dominguez, fiction readings by Roxane Gay and Juan Manuel Perez, a performance poet who sang and performed his work, an afternoon of writing workshops and a highly anticipated poetry slam featuring performance poet Link Schreiber.

But, while excitement in the department and by organizers skyrockets with each event, attention from UD students and faculty wanes.

“In its genesis, LitFest was a guerrilla art/art brut movement started by grad students in English in 2001,” said professor, poet and longtime LitFest organizer Albino Carrillo. “[However,] we have not seen it improve. We are losing numbers due to lack of student and faculty interest.”

This year, 45 people attended, many of whom were local high school students at which the workshops — in fiction, poetry, performance poetry and screenwriting — were directed.

“The most successful event was the slam on Saturday night,” said Doench, who has been involved with LitFest now for four years. “There was an award given of $300 for the best poet. The high school workshops were also well attended.”

Prof. Carrillo hopes for UD and others tosee LitFest as “seminal to the progression of arts and literature at UD.” If the donors, funders and sourced talent that keep the event coming back year after every-other-year see it as a main event, the goal is for students to also see it as such.

“It’s not all about getting a job,” insisted Carrillo. “It’s about learning for life, and lit and writing are a part of that.” UD may not have the thriving arts scene found in places such as the University of New Mexico, Kenyon College or Antioch College, but an event such as LitFest is strong step in the direction of establishing a literary community on campus.

Please give us your feedback. Send your stories, thoughts and memories of past LitFest’s, including any suggestions you may have for future events to magazine@udayton.edu.

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