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Spalding MFA ‘Book Benches’ Authors to Be Honored in Lexington Oct. 27

Event to feature work of Driskell, House, Johnson, Naslund, Walker, Wilkinson

Katy Yocom

LEXINGTON, KY — Six premier Kentucky authors, all with ties to Spalding University’s low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing program, will be honored at a free public event on Saturday morning, Oct. 27, at 21c Museum Hotel, 167 W. Main Street, Lexington.

The event includes a walking tour, reading and reception celebrating each author’s inclusion in the public art exhibit Book Benches: A Tribute to Kentucky Authors. The event is free, ticketless and open to the public.

The honored authors include Spalding MFA program director Kathleen Driskell, faculty members Silas House and Fenton Johnson, founding program director Sena Jeter Naslund, and alumni Frank X Walker and Crystal Wilkinson. Driskell, House, Naslund, Walker and Wilkinson will attend the event and read from their work. Johnson will be represented by Sara Beth Lowe, his former student in the Spalding MFA program, who will read a passage of Johnson’s work.

Each featured author was honored in Lexington’s book bench project, a public art exhibit in which different Kentucky artists designed colorful, creative and functional benches representing books by 37 authors with ties to the Commonwealth. The benches commemorate the author’s contribution to Kentucky literature. (View the benches here.)

The event takes place as follows:

10:30 a.m. – Weather permitting, a walking tour leaves from 21c Museum Hotel Lexington to showcase several nearby benches.

11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. – A reading and reception takes place at 21c Museum Hotel Lexington, rain or shine.

About the Honorees

Kathleen Driskell Spalding MFA in Writer director
Kathleen Driskell / Photo by John Nation

* Kathleen Driskell has published four full-length collections of poetry, including Seed Across Snow, which was listed as a national bestseller by the Poetry Foundation, and Blue Etiquette. Driskell’s collection Next Door to the Dead earned her Transylvania University’s 2018 Judy Gaines Young Book Award. She is program director of Spalding’s MFA in Writing program.

* Silas House is the author of newly released Southernmost as well as Same Sun Here, Clay’s Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves, The Coal Tattoo, and Eli the Good. Southernmost was recently longlisted for the 2019 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. He teaches fiction at Spalding and is also a Spalding MFA alum who in 2015 won the university’s Caritas Medal as alumnus of the year.

* Fenton Johnson is the author of three novels, most recently The Man Who Loved Birds, and several works of creative nonfiction, including Everywhere Home: A Life in Essays. His work frequently appears in Harper’s. He is on the faculty of Spalding’s MFA program.

* Sena Jeter Naslund is co-founder of the Spalding MFA program, where she edits The Louisville Review and Fleur-de-Lis Press. Naslund is the best-selling author of Ahab’s Wife, Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette and Four Spirits, among others.

* Frank X Walker is a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets and editor of America! What’s My Name? His poetry collections include Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers and Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate this Ride. A Spalding MFA alum, Walker was Poet Laureate of Kentucky in 2013-2014 and currently teaches at the University of Kentucky.

* Crystal Wilkinson is author of The Birds of Opulence (winner of the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence), Water Street, and Blackberries, Blackberries. She received her MFA from Spalding and teaches at UK.

About the Spalding MFA Program

Spalding’s nationally distinguished low-residency MFA in Writing program is committed to excellence in a noncompetitive atmosphere. The program offers concentrations in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, writing for children and young adults, screenwriting, and playwriting. Students begin the semester in the spring, summer, or fall with a residency in Louisville or abroad; then, faculty and students return to their homes for an independent study focusing on the student’s creative writing. Cross-genre exploration and the profession of writing are emphasized. Students may customize the residency location, season, and pace of their studies. See spalding.edu/mfa for more information.

About Book Benches: A Tribute to Kentucky Authors

The Book Benches Project is a collaborative public art exhibit among Arts Connect, LexArts, and the Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning. Modeled after Horsemania, 37 book-shaped functional benches, each illustrated and themed around different works by Kentucky authors, were placed throughout Lexington during 2018 to celebrate Kentucky’s literary heritage, encourage reading, and provide a place for rest. For more information, see bookbencheslex.org.