Collins has earned a rare spot between critical respect and wide appeal. His last three collections of poems have broken sales records for poetry. His readings are usually standing room only, and his audience enhanced tremendously by his appearances on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion on National Public Radio includes people of all backgrounds and age groups.
Collins explains, My poetry is suburban, its domestic, its middle class, and its sort of unashamedly that, but I hope theres enough imaginative play in there that its not simply poems about barbequing. He continued, I believe poetry belongs in unexpected places in elevators and on buses and subways. Thats a good way to get it out of the classroom, out of the hands of academics and to bring it into public spaces.
In an effort to accomplish just that, Collins edited Poetry 180, an anthology designed to bring very contemporary poetry to high school students. He has also published eight collections of his poetry, including Ballistics, The Art of Drowning, Taking Off Emily Dickinsons Clothes and The Trouble With Poetry, and began an audio poetry channel for Delta Airlines. Viewing his poetry as a form of travel writing, Collins considers humor a door into the serious. It is a door that many thousands of readers have opened with amazement and delight.
In addition to serving as U.S. Poet Laureate, Collins has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. He was also recognized by the New York Public Library as a "Literary Lion." Currently, he is a Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York.
Introducing Billy Collins will be Robert Reeves, the founding director of the Stony Brook Southampton MFA in Writing and Literature, the publisher of The Southampton Review and the Director of the Southampton Writers Conference. A Birmingham native, Reeves has published two critically-acclaimed novels, Doubting Thomas and Peeping Thomas.
Keynote Address: Ridley Pearson is the best-selling author of 25 crime novels. His first ambition, however, was to be a musician, and he spent most of his twenties writing and performing folk rock. His novels include Killer Summer and Killer View, as well as The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer, which was made into a made-for television movie. Pearson has also written a dozen novels for younger readers including the Kingdom Keepers series and the Peter and the Starcatchers series (co-written with Dave Barry) which is being developed for the stage by Disney Theatrical. In his free time, he plays bass guitar with the Rock Bottom Remainders, along with authors Greg Iles, Dave Barry, Stephen King, Amy Tan and Mitch Albom.
Marc Fitten was born in Brooklyn, raised in the Bronx and later moved to Atlanta for high school. Following graduation, he spent nearly a decade traveling in Europe, living primarily in Hungary. He is currently the editor of The Chattahoochee Review, Atlantas oldest journal. Fitten has been published in several American publications and was included in Esquire magazines Cocktail Napkin Project. Valerias Last Stand is his debut novel.
Watch a recording of Marc''s talk below. Additionally a question and answer
recording can be found here: http://vimeo.com/10695036
Masha Hamilton worked as a foreign correspondent for The Associated Press in the Middle East for five years, covering the peace process and partial Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. She then spent five years in Moscow covering the collapse of communism, followed by several stints reporting from Afghanistan. The mother of three children, one born in Israel, another in Moscow and the third in the U.S., Hamilton is the author of four novels, including 31 Hours and The Camel Bookmobile.
Watch a recording of Masha speaking at Southern Voices 2010.
This recording includes question and answer.
Ad Hudler grew up in a four-generation newspaper family. Following college, he landed a job as a reporter in Fort Myers, Florida. There he met and married his wife, Carol, who soon gave birth to their daughter, Haley. As Carol pursued her dream job as a newspaper publisher, Ad became primary caregiver for Haley. His experiences as a stay-at-home dad led to his first novel, Househusband. He is also the author of Man of the House, All This Belongs to Me and Southern Living.
Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a Montgomery, Alabama native who studied journalism at Auburn University. She began her reporting career at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, later going on to win the National Headliner Award for newspaper commentary and Scripps Howards Ernie Pyle Memorial Award for outstanding human interest reporting. She is the author of Americas Faces and Poor Mans Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana.
Todd Johnson is the great-grandson of a rural Baptist preacher. With a degree in history and a masters degree from Yale Divinity School, Todd moved to New York to pursue a career as a musician. He sang and arranged countless jingles, later playing with artists ranging from Garth Brooks to Natalie Cole and Tony Bennett. A career change led Todd to the theater, where he received a 2006 Tony Award nomination as producer of The Color Purple. The Sweet By and By is his first novel.
River Jordan is a Southerner with a global perspective. She began her career as a playwright, spending more than 10 years with the Loblolly Theatre Group. She now teaches and speaks around the country on The Passion of Story and produces and hosts River Jordan Radio on WFRN Nashville. Her novels include Saints in Limbo, Messenger of Magnolia Street and The Gin Girl. When not traveling the back roads of America, she lives in Nashville with her husband and their Great Pyrenees lap dog.
Watch a recording of River's talk.
This recording includes question and answer.
Closing Address: Diane McWhorter is the author of the highly-celebrated book Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution, which garnered the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction, the Southern Book Award and was named one of Time Magazines Top 10 Books of 2001. She is also the author of the award-winning A Dream of Freedom, a young adult history of the Civil Rights Movement. Raised in Birmingham, McWhorter is a graduate of Wellesley College and was a long-time contributor to The New York Times and former editor of Boston Magazine. She is presently on the USA Today Board of Contributors and is currently researching her next book, which focuses on Wernher von Braun and the Third Reich missile pioneers. She and her family live in New York City.