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January 2012 Archives


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Here's hoping that all of you dear readers had lovely holidays and a felicitous, peaceful, and smooth entry into the beginnings of 2012. During this time of year, I often hear from students who have either graduated recently or long ago and who I now call friends.  Two friends who I mention here are former students from our English Department at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln:  Lenna Pierce is a gifted musician and singer and Emily Danforth is a gifted writer whose first novel comes out in February.  

I had coffee with Lenna Pierce last week. She had just returned from her cross-country one-woman concert tour:  from Lincoln, Nebraska to New York.  It was intriguing listening to her road stories.  She recounted experiences in bars, dives, and very nice concert venues.  Most interesting to me were her descriptions of the music she heard along the way, the musicians she met--alternative, experimental.  Lenna is in a world far and away from popular culture.  The kind of music she creates with her cello, voice and words, transcends anything that is on the radio or I-Pods right now.  I find it literary, creatively multi-layered, so complex in its lightness. Before Lenna went solo, she performed with Rachel West (who accompanied Lenna's cello with an accordian) and they called their duo, "Das Hoboerotica."  They played various venues here in Lincoln, Nebraska until Rachel decided to pursue other interests.  Now Lenna has broadened her concert card to a number of states between here and New York (inclusive of NY). You don't meet many alternative cello playing singers.  Lenna says the cello, "just feels so right.  You know, it's big and warm but it's dark too.  It's not a simple instrument, but it is a beautiful one." Lenna's music reminds me of the Argentine singer, Juana Molina.  Juana sings in what I call "Rioplatense Spanish transcendency." Rioplatense is the regional Spanish she chooses to use in the writing of her songs.  Listen to her here: (CLICK) and also here: (CLICK). She is in a kind of trance, repeating words, verses, shifting chords that shift the listener, move us into another space. Sometimes I imagine Lenna Pierce playing with Juana Molina. What a collaboration that would be!

If you're in Lincoln, Nebraska tomorrow (Friday, January 6th) you can hear Lenna Pierce at Meadowlark Coffee House at 8p.m. (1624 South Street).  

Emily Danforth received her PhD in creative writing just last May 2011 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  She is now an Assistant Professor at Rhode Island College in Providence.  
Her soon-to-be-published book, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a coming of age novel and it is riveting, told in gorgeous descriptive prose. 

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When I read Emily's words, I am literally there lying on the Montana fields watching those slow moving clouds above me.  She carries you from there to heartbreaking and bittersweet first love, loss, and maturity. The book is already a "starred review" from Kirkus Reviews:  "Rich with detail and emotion, a sophisticated read for teens and adults alike."  Booklist also starred it:  "[An] ambitious literary novel, a multidimensional coming-of-age."  It will be released February 7th.  You can also pre-order from your local bookstore!  

Lately, book publishers have been marketing their books with youtube mini-films.  It's brilliant.  Emily's publisher, Balzer and Bray have come 
out with a sweet, lovely "trailer" so to speak, to whet your appetite.  Here it is: CLICK HERE.

I always wish for our students to find what makes their hearts leap, to pursue a passion-- not to pursue what someone else thinks they should be doing. I hope for students to dig deep inside themselves and find their true gifts to develop. Lenna and Emily are passionate about their work.  It shows.  It delights.  We are lucky to have them share their gifts with us.  

And on that note, today I read a wonderful article in the New York Times regarding professors who are taking their lectures "to the bar" or to concert hall venues, or main stages of clubs-- giving lectures for free-- trying out their ideas in public.  This is wonderful.  Here's the article about it entitled:  "Continuing Education, at the Bar."  These are people who wish to reach a different audience from the 8a.m. class.  It's a way to spread the love of learning.  



 

 

 
 
 
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