Axton Literary Festival Looks to Past and Future

by Erin Keane on April 4, 2012

The 2012 Axton Literary Festival will explore the concept of time travel in contemporary literature that dives into the past or forges into the future April 11-13 with readings, discussions and a film screening. The events are free and open to the public.

Festival curator Alyssa Knickerbocker, the current University of Louisville Axton Fellow in creative writing, says she is interested in the concerns, anxieties and obsessions reflected in the imagined future and parallel worlds of contemporary literature.

“I think the urge to look backward is similar to the urge to look forwards — it betrays a desire to make sense of the present using a new lens or perspective, to gain the advantage of distance,” says Knickerbocker.

“Lately I’m noticing a lot of speculative work anda lot of historical work, and in organizing a festival focused on work that moves through time in either direction, I’m hoping to shed some light on why that might be, and what the trend tells us about our current concerns over the environment, the wars we’re fighting, the latent systemic racism that we don’t know how to deal with.”

Events include a screening of Patricio Guzmán’s film “Nostalgia for the Light” April 11 at 3 p.m. in the Rauch Planetarium at the University of Louisville. The film explores the intersecting paths of astronomers in Chile’s Atacama Desert gathered to observe the stars and women searching the desert for the remains of loved ones “disappeared” by the Chilean army after the military coup of 1973. The screening will be followed by a discussion of the film and its treatment of Chile’s political history led by University of Louisville language professor Dr. Manual Medina.

That evening will also feature an evening of readings by Kentucky women writers, “A Wrinkle in Time: Women Writers Envision the Future,” 7:30 p.m. at the Rudyard Kipling (422 W. Oak St.). Inspired by the 50th anniversary of Madeline L’Engle’s Newberry Award-winning novel about a young girl who moves through space and time on a quest to save her family, poet Katerina Stoykova-Klemer, memoirists Bobbi Buchanan and Julie Marie Wade and playwright Nancy Gall-Clayton will present future-themed original works. Mitzi Friedlander will read excerpts from L’Engle’s novel.

Matt Salesses reads from his novella “The Last Repatriate,” which follows a prisoner of war home to a changed country, April 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Bingham Poetry Room in the University of Louisville’s Ekstrom Library. He will be joined by Shane McCrae, who reads from his chapbook of linked persona poems, “In Canaan,” which tells us, through her own imagined voice, the true story of escaped slave Margaret Garner. A discussion with the authors will follow the reading.

Student creative writing workshops will round out the festival on April 13.

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