Boston Local Meeting – April 27th

The ALSCW will hold its next Boston local meeting on April 27 at 5pm, at Boston University’s Editorial Institute. James O’Brien, a Ph.D. candidate at the Editorial Institute, will present his short film on Bob Dylan, “Long Ago Way: The Siggins Transcript.”


Now joining the conversation on Wednesday evening will be Scott Alarik. He will offer his thoughts on the film, and some contexts for the story it tells.

About: Scott Alarik, the Globe’s principal folk music critic/writer since 1986, is  a frequent contributor to Sing Out! the Folk Music Magazine, and was folk critic for the public radio program Here and Now for seven years. Pete Seeger calls Alarik “one of the best writers in America,” and Dar Williams calls him “the finest folk writer in the country.” Irish Echo and Wall Street Journal critic Earle Hitchner says Alarik is “one of America’s most astute music critics and chroniclers.” Before moving to Boston in the early 80s, Alarik, a Minnesota native, spent nearly 15 years as a folk singer and songwriter. He released three albums and appeared regularly on the public radio hit A Prairie Home Companion. In 2003, he hosted the Newport Folk Festival


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

We’re Moving

As the first step in our gradual relocation to our new site, the news blog has been moved. All future updates will be posted to See you there.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

ALSCW/VSC Fellowship Application : Deadline (Feb 15th)

The application deadline for the Second Annual ALSCW/VSC Fellowship is in less than three weeks!  For more information about the Vermont Studio Center, please visit  If you are interested in applying for the, fellowship, go to to download an application.

The ALSCW/VSC Fellowship provides a one-month VSC residency for a writer who is a current member of the ALSCW.  It is open to all of the Association’s creative writers and literary translators.  To be eligible for the fellowship, please make sure you have paid your 2011 dues.  If you still need to renew, please do so online at

We are pleased to partner with the VSC for this fellowship and for other literary ventures such as LiT (Literature in Translation).  You can read about the first LiT forum – which featured Clare Cavanagh and Adam Zagajewski (also participants in our broadside gallery!) – on page 4 of Literary Matters 3.4  The second LiT forum – with Patrizia Cavalli and Geoffrey Brock – will be held in October 2011 (the same month as the ALSCW’s annual conference).

We are also grateful to Fred Iseman for funding the first fellowship, and to Rosanna Warren for funding this second fellowship.

Leave a comment

Filed under Grants & Funding

Boston Local Meeting: Dan Moran and Edmund Jorgensen

You are cordially invited to a local meeting of the ALSCW – the first of the spring 2011 semester.  Our meeting will be held at the Editorial Institute at Boston University, 143 Bay State Road, in the conference room / library on the first floor.  The Editorial Institute is a five-minute walk from Kenmore Square or a two-minute walk from the Blandford St. stop on the Green Line B. Following the lecture, there will be wine and discussion.

Wednesday 23 February, 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Guest speakers Dan Moran and Edmund Jorgensen will be reading excerpts of their own works.

Please let Katy Evans [] or Katherine Hala [] know by Monday 21 February whether you will be coming.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Literary Matters 3.4 Released

The latest issue of Literary Matters reflects on the ALSCW’s accomplishments at the end of 2010, and anticipates the new year with a new president and new staff.  The issue includes updates on recent member activity and accolades, as well as poems by Robert Gibb and Brent Joseph Wells, bios of the ALSCW interns, and the winning essays from our first annual secondary school essay contest.  There is a write up of the latest local meeting in Baton Rouge, where members celebrated the prevention of catastrophic funding cuts to the comparative literature program at LSU, thanks in part to the efforts of the ALSCW.  In the Neglected Authors column, Rosanna Warren champions the work of Byron Herbert Reece, a poet and novelist she calls “a casualty of modernism.”  Adelaide Russo remembers Brent Joseph Wells, and in the Portrait of a Donor column, President Greg Delanty presents a bio of novelist, translator, and donor Francis O’Neill.


Brendan Ryan


Link to new issue

Leave a comment

Filed under General News, Uncategorized

ALSCW and Foreign Language Departments


re: the crisis, coming or already here, for foreign language departments in US Academe

As you know, ALSCW has been supporting departments of comparative literature facing termination, and has prevailed, in collaboration with the MLA and other associations, in reversing an execution at LSU Baton Rouge, and has brought about a stay of execution and a chance for rethinking the question at University of Toronto.

1. The situation at SUNY Albany is still in play, with drama and classics also on the block.  Rosemary Feal, our cordial ally (she’s executive director of the MLA and a member of the ALSCW too) has written this forceful article, which has been published in the MLA newsletter, the MLA website, and now on Huffington Post.  If you haven’t read it, it should interest you.

Rosemary G. Feal
Executive Director
Modern Language Association
(646) 576-5102

Your Immediate Past President,

Susan Wolfson

SUNY Letter

ALSCW & Comparative Literature

For more on this topic, see or earlier post, Foreign Language Programs in Academia

Leave a comment

Filed under General News

Boston Local Meeting-September 29

On September 29, a group of literati gathered in a book-lined room of Boston University’s Editorial Institute, found on the emblematic Bay State Road, to hear a paper given by Cassandra Nelson of Harvard University. This marked the first annual local meeting of the ALSCW in Boston, and it was quite a lively event, to say the least.
The presentation, “‘Corrigeé si on peut dire [‘Corrected, if you can call it that’],” highlighted instances of textual variation in More Pricks Than Kicks, a lesser-known work by Samuel Beckett, and sought to explain the progression of how they came to be. Though the notion of a diachronic study of textual variation across successive editions of a text may seem abstruse or unapproachable to even the more daring among us, as it turns out, it is a topic that inspired attention, awe and many a guffaw from the audience.
Nelson was the editor involved in the 2010 reissue of More Pricks Than Kicks and shared the saga of how this collection of prose and its four preceding editions came to be (which, with many details elided for reasons of space, can be summed up as: Beckett resisted more upon each pressing, the publishers got pushier, and the proofing went rogue). It was her task to pore through each edition: the original 1934 Chatto and Windus release, one of the lowest grossing books of the time, and the second, third, and fourth editions of just 100 copies each published in 1968, 1970, and 1971, which were typed on typewriters and stapled rather than bound.
Beckett had wanted to distance himself from the work and was more than hesitant to have it further propagated, but upon the vow from his publisher at Grove that it would be produced only once and solely for use by scholars, he reluctantly agreed, and it is clear that his reluctance was well warranted. These later editions were advertised in Grove’s catalogue against the wishes of Beckett, and were fraught with textual discrepancies, ranging from minor issues of punctuation that can be attributed to negligence, to the omission of particular words (seemingly motivated by an overly liberal editor), to the outright “jazzing up” of certain words to reflect modern vernacular and contemporary standards of decorum.
After the laborious task of compiling a chart cataloguing the discrepancies from text to text, Nelson was then ready to begin selecting which version to base editorial decisions on  (no easy task given the extent of the variation and the impossibility of being certain with whom the responsibility for these changes lay). She mainly sided with the 1934 version because it was the one with which Beckett had the most editorial input and many of the variants seen in later editions—such as replacing B.T.M. (“bottom”) with “arse” and “——” (for an unspecified expletive) with the much more decisive “fucking”—were updated to conform to modern standards of [in]decency, making them inauthentic to the style and period of the original work.
At the close of the presentation, it was evident just how considerable the task of editing can be, particularly when it involves constructing an accurate representation of a work that has gone through so many stages of proofing and publication. The audience engaged Nelson with questions and further observations, out of which debate was sparked regarding the underlining capabilities of manual typewriters, the possible referents of “his” in the line “A horse was down and a man sat on his head,” and whether “asterisked” should be considered a verb or an adjective in the text, but more importantly, if it is a suitable substitute for “buggered.” When the discussion died down and the wine bottles were discarded, it is no great leap to say that many in attendance were inspired to pick up More Pricks than Kicks, and, at the very least, had a renewed appreciation for the conscientious editor.

Samantha Madway

Leave a comment

Filed under Events

David Ferry Broadside


An excerpt from Virgil’s Aeneid translated by David Ferry is featured as a new ALSCW broadside — the second in a series of broadsides designed by Zachary Sifuentes for the ALSCW. (See the news article about our third broadside – a poem by Jane Hirshfield – here.)

Ferry, a lifetime member of the ALSCW, is an award-winning translator and poet currently teaching at Boston University. The new broadside contains his translation of the Golden Bough passage from The Aeneid. The image is purple and gray, with an elegant and airy quality appropriate for the subject matter. You can read more about designer Zachary Sifuentes and see his other two ALSCW broadsides on our Broadside Gallery webpage.

Brendan Ryan (ALSCW Intern; Boston University)

Leave a comment

Filed under Broadside Gallery

Jane Hirshfield Broadside

ALSCWJane Hirshfield’s previously unpublished poem “For the LOBARIA, USNEA, Witches’ Hair, Map Lichen, Beard Lichen, Ground Lichen, Shield Lichen” is featured on a new broadside — the third in a series of broadsides designed by Zachary Sifuentes for the ALSCW.

After graduating from Princeton University and studying at the San Francisco Zen Center, Hirshfield began her career as a writer, teacher, and translator.   Her work has been described as including elements of both western and eastern poetry, while using simple language that is subtly inviting to complexity.

The poem featured in the broadside presents a personal reflection on the metaphor of lichens and is set in Garamond next to a beautifully re-imagined cross section of map lichen.  The image is green and gray, with the lines of the poem itself incorporated into the body of the lichen. You can read more about designer Zachary Sifuentes and see his other two ALSCW broadsides on the ALSCW Broadside Gallery webpage.

Brendan Ryan (ALSCW Intern; Boston University)

1 Comment

Filed under Broadside Gallery

The Common Reader









On Friday, November 5th at the ALSCW conference in Princeton, NJ, Patricia Hampl, Mark Edmunson, Mark Halliday and Phillip Lopate sat on a panel to discuss “The Common Reader” and the common, contemporary experience of reading.

Hampl focused on the relationship between the author’s mind and the reader’s mind, specifically in personal forms of writing. She cited Fitzgerald’s collection of essays, “The Crack-Up,” as a series of psychological breakdowns between story and poem that marked a shift from omniscience to an autobiographical and personal voice.

Mark Edmunson found that the common reader is one who reads for pleasure and easy enjoyment; with many people working a 40 hour work week and needing two incomes to get by, Edmuson explained, the common reader does not wish to undertake the strenuous effort required to understand complex texts. The media, also, no longer strives to shape tastes as it once did. If it took this approach, Edmunson hypothesized, the common reader would feel dumb. Taking a somewhat cynical approach to the topic, Edmunson saw the common reader as a kind of narcissus, not looking for a challenge so much as instant gratification.

Poet Mark Halliday spoke of the use of accessible versus difficult language in poetry, and his own inclination as a poet to identify with the common reader. Citing the tendency of common readers to conceive of poems as characterized by non-transparent, obscure language, Halliday argued for the power of simple, accessible language to convey complex ideas. He spoke of clarity and obscurity not as binaries, but rather as different methods of approaching a poem. Language with surface simplicity can convey an underlying difficulty, he related, while seemingly inaccessible language can convey the simplest of ideas. Phillip Lopate, the final speaker, called himself a common reader, one looking for an understanding of the way things are, what he called wisdom, or, the loss of innocence.


Matthew Connolly

Leave a comment

Filed under Conferences