Jessica Hagedorn, and why I'm lucky to be at Penn

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The last time Julia Bloch was on this blog she was hosting Dorothy Allison at Kelly Writers House—leading a conversation through the wickets of time.

Yesterday I was privileged to see Julia, the newly named director of Penn's Creative Writing program (replacing Greg Djanikian, about whom I wrote here), engage in conversation with KWH Fellow Jessica Hagedorn. Poet, playwright, novelist, teacher, creator of an MFA program, provocateur, sometimes-reluctant-and-sometimes-not-reluctant pundit, Hagedorn was as bright as the sun breaking in through the trees behind her. Funny, too. Easy to adore.

I listened with care, leaning in especially close when the talk turned to the Philippines, a land that lives in my husband's blood. I listened and thought of how privileged I am to work at Penn, within the KWH frame, where, thanks to this marvel that Al Filreis stirred into being (and Jessica Lowenthal so ably guides on a daily basis), so many remarkable voices, thinkers, makers arrive, suggest, and leave some shimmer dust behind. We are never done as teachers. We never know enough. We have something to gain by sitting and listening to those who have built great worlds with words.

I went off to be with My Spectaculars one final time (an image of them here; oh, my heart). I came home with a lump in my throat and a copy of Dogeaters, the first novel in a series of Hagedorn novels that I will read this summer.


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