Elizabeth Poliner, associate professor of English and creative writing at Hollins and director of the Jackson Center for Creative Writing, has been selected as a finalist for the 2019 Nelson Algren Literary Award, presented by the Chicago Tribune.
Named in honor of the American author best known for his National Book Award-winning 1949 novel, The Man with the Golden Arm, the Nelson Algren Literary Award is a nationally recognized contest for original short fiction. Held annually since 1981, the contest received more than 3,000 entries this year. It was judged by Jennifer Acker, founder of The Common, an online literary magazine; Mona Simpson, who won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize in 2001; and Jane Smiley, a two-time winner of the Heartland Prize.
Poliner is the author of the novel, As Close to Us as Breathing, winner of the 2017 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize in Fiction, finalist for the Harold Ribalow Prize for Jewish fiction, and an Amazon Best Book of 2016. She is also the author of a story collection, Mutual Life & Casualty, and a volume of poetry, What You Know in Your Hands. Her stories have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, The Kenyon Review, The Common, Colorado Review, and TriQuarterly, among other journals. A member of the Hollins faculty since 2008, she teaches in both the Master of Fine Arts and undergraduate creative writing programs.
Hollins paid tribute to two revered faculty members during the university’s 42nd Honors Convocation on May 7.
Professor of Classical Studies Tina Salowey received the Herta T. Freitag Faculty Legacy Award. Since 2000, Hollins has presented the award to a member of the faculty whose recent scholarly and creative accomplishments reflect the extraordinary academic standards set by Freitag, who served as professor of mathematics at Hollins from 1948 to 1971.
“This year’s honoree teaches numerous literature genres, two ancient languages, and the art, religion, history, philosophy, architecture, science, and geography of the long-lived civilizations that spoke and wrote those languages,” Vice President for Academic Affairs Patricia Hammer stated in her convocation remarks. “The breadth and scope of her interests have in turn had a profound impact on her work as a researcher and a scholar.”
Hammer noted that Salowey’s intensive study of ancient grave monuments was chosen for inclusion in the 2017 publication, Women in the Classical World: Critical Concepts in Classical Studies. In collaboration with Associate Professor of Communication Studies Chris Richter, Salowey developed a digital exhibition on the World War II memorials in the Epirus region of northwestern Greece, preserving their location, sculptural design, and often poetic inscriptions. Another digital exhibition, produced with students in Salowey’s Greek 350: Greek Inscriptions class, included photographs of ancient Greek texts that were inscribed on ancient works of art. Her future scholarly plans include a textbook on mythology and environmental history, and writing a biography about the River Acheloos, the largest river in Greece.
Salowey joined the Hollins faculty in 1996.
Amanda Cockrell, who retired last year as director of Hollins’ graduate programs in children’s literature, was presented the Roberta A. Stewart Service Award. The award is granted to a Hollins employee who demonstrates long-term service, loyalty to the university, and deep caring for students and colleagues.
Beginning with just six students, Cockrell and Professor of English Richard Dillard co-founded the children’s literature graduate programs in 1992. The program was one of the first of its kind in the country, devoted exclusively to the study and writing of children’s and young adult literature. “Over the years, the program has grown in so many wonderful ways, thanks to her remarkable leadership,” said Hammer. “And her dedication to helping students find not a ‘Hollins’ voice but their own voice has profoundly touched lives both personally and creatively. As one former student noted, ‘She has counseled us, taught us, guided us, answered a million questions, sent a thousand emails, and kept track of dozens of students at once. We salute her for creating a program that has become a safe haven to so many of us, a home away from home.'”
Over the years, approximately 230 students have passed through the graduate programs designed and built by Cockrell.
Few publications have celebrated the prodigious talents of Southwest Virginia writers and artists as Artemis.
For the better part of four decades, the literary journal, published annually, has showcased compelling new voices in tandem with notable authors that have ranged from poet laureates to Pulitzer Prize and other major award winners and nominees. The rich history of creativity at Hollins University in the written word and other artistic expression has played an integral role in the success and perseverance of Artemis: Through the years, over 140 Hollins writers and artists, including more than 90 students and 40 professors, have been featured contributors, or have donated their time and expertise as board members for the all-volunteer operation.
“Without Hollins and the direction it provided, Artemis would not have lasted,” says editor and founder Jeri Rogers, who herself is a Hollins alumna, having earned her Master of Arts in Liberal Studies in 1991.
Artemis began in 1977 while Rogers was serving as director of the Women’s Resource Center in Roanoke, sponsored by Total Action Against Poverty (now Total Action for Progress). “I had gotten a grant to do a photographic study of women and in the process found that a lot of my subjects were writers. At the same time, one of the biggest problems I saw at the center was women who had suffered from abuse. That’s a really tough subject to deal with because poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, and homelessness are also involved. It was so upsetting and sad to see this, but I thought, ‘What can we do to help move this forward?’ So, I started a writing workshop for abused women.”
The first workshop, which was run “with the help of some of Hollins’ best writers,” she says, generated “amazing results.” Rogers was inspired to launch a new literary journal that she named Artemis after the lunar goddess. “I pitched the idea and my supervisors were like, ‘go for it, we’ll get some money for you.’ That was how it started and it was such a great vehicle because it published some of the writings of these women and talked about the work we were doing at the center.”
Poems and short stories by Hollins students and professors appeared as well in the debut issue of Artemis, and over the years, contributions from acclaimed Hollins authors such as Professor of English Jeanne Larsen M.A. ’72, Professor of English Cathryn Hankla ’80, M.A. ’82, and Beth Macy M.A. ’93, and artists including Professor of Art Emeritus Bill White and Betty Branch ’79, M.A.L.S. ’87, have been published. Well into the 1980s, Hollins faculty writers including Amanda Cockrell ’69, M.A. ’88 (founding director of Hollins’ graduate programs in children’s literature), Thorpe Moeckel (associate professor of English), and Professor of English Eric Trethewey (who passed away in 2014) continued to play a prominent role in the writing workshops. Rogers notes that “[Professor of English] Richard Dillard got involved early on, and thanks to him, every issue of Artemis is now part of Special Collections at Hollins’ Wyndham Robertson Library.”
The first 20-plus years of the journal’s existence were gratifying yet exhausting for Rogers and her volunteers. During the same time period she was raising three children and working as a professional photographer. Artemis went dormant in 2000 for more than ten years, but its concept and mission never diminished. “There were a number of us who missed it,” Rogers recalls, “and we decided to resurrect it in 2014” with one caveat: “We’ve gotta keep it small.” Today, the Artemis staff features Rogers and just six other volunteers, and she’s emphasized recruiting younger people to ensure the journal continues for years to come.
Rogers admits that producing a “beautifully printed, perfect-bound,” 200-page volume in the digital age “is a challenge. It’s pushing that boulder up that hill. But we don’t give up. There’s nothing like having your work printing in a page form in a book. You can have all kinds of things done in a digital format that are then uploaded to ‘the cloud,’ but how do we know that’s going to be there five years from now?”
Since its return, Artemis has actually seen its print number increase to somewhere between 500 and 600 copies. Most copies are sold for $25 each during a celebration launch event held each year at Roanoke’s Taubman Museum of Art. The official debut of Artemis XXVI, the 2019 edition of the journal, takes place on Friday, June 7, and will feature a special dance performance by the Southwest Virginia Ballet.
Artemis is also made available for purchase online – the journal is planning a pre-sale event for the 2019 edition this spring where the book will be available for $20 – and Rogers says sales have “gone beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains,” reflecting the fact that submissions have been coming in from writers and artists outside the region.
“Among the more than 1,000 submissions we had last year, some came from Italy, England, and France, and we published those,” Rogers explains. “The power of the Internet has helped spread the word about the quality.”
Fittingly, the two featured writers and artists in Artemis XXVI are distinguished Hollins alumnae: Natasha Trethewey M.A. ‘91, Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. Poet Laureate, and Sally Mann ’74, M.A. ’75, who was named “America’s Best Photographer” by Time magazine.
“Natasha – you just can’t get much better that that. And what can we say about Sally other than ‘Wow,’” Rogers states. “They both have dealt with being Southern artists and writers, and I think they both really tie into that Southern Gothic scene. Natasha’s poem in the new edition of Artemis addresses racism and is called “Reach.” Sally said she’d be honored to be paired with Natasha, and the image of hers that we’re considering is so good, we think it’s cover-worthy.”
While Rogers acknowledges that she’s “not going to be around forever” as editor of Artemis, she clearly relishes the achievement each edition represents and considers last year’s issue to be her proudest moment. At the same time, she is quick to praise the many volunteers that have supported the journal over the years, noting that “it literally takes a village to sustain the energy needed for Artemis.” Two of the key players along with Rogers since the beginning who continue to play vital roles today are literary editor Maurice Ferguson and design editor Virginia Lepley. Rogers also cites organizations such as the Taubman, which provides space for the annual issue launch free of charge, and the Roanoke Arts Commission, whose grants have given Artemis crucial financial support.
“When you start something, it’s probably going to work out if you have good intentions,” Rogers concludes. “If it’s egotistically motivated, it’s going to have some problems. It won’t last. All along, during the history of Artemis, there have been people who get on board, are so dedicated to the arts, and want to keep this thing going. I think that’s why we’ve existed as long as we have.”
Top Image: The artwork for the cover of Artemis‘ 2015 issue, created by Hollins Professor of Art Emeritus Bill White.
According to the ceremony organizers, “The objective of POW/MIA Awareness Day is to ensure America remembers its responsibility to stand behind those who serve our nation and do everything possible to account for those who do not return.”
Moriarty’s talk, “Andreé: A Name on the Prisoners’ List,” draws from the ongoing research she’s conducting for a memoir, an early draft of which was short-listed for the 2018 Faulkner-Wisdom Narrative Nonfiction Book Award. Her study has focused on her mother’s experience with the French underground during World War II.
Moriatry says the impetus for her research came from an old photo. “A 1945 photograph addressed to my father, ‘With love, Liliane,’ put a false name to my mother Andreé’s face. Decades later, that name became the key to unraveling her wartime activities.” With the assistance of newly-found French cousins, she discovered that even though her mother did not wear a uniform, “she was arrested by the Gestapo, spent six months in solitary confinement, was tried by the Wehrmacht, and served two years of a four-year sentence before the war ended.”
The memoir project has produced some spin-off work. An essay, “Swerves,” won the 2014 Faulkner-Wisdom Gold Medal and was reprinted in the 2016 anthology, Borderlines and Crossings: Writing the Motherland. Another essay, “You Are Where You Eat,” appears in text and audio on The Dirty Spoon. The essay will also be published on the France-Amérique website in early October.
Moriarty adds that invitation to speak at the POW/MIA Awareness Day ceremony came through a Hollins connection: April Cheek-Messier ’94, M.A.T. ’02, who is president of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation.
One of the country’s most prominent professors of studio art whose work has appeared nationally in New York, Philadelphia, and Atlanta, and internationally in Russia and Chad, will serve as Hollins University’s Frances Niederer Artist-in-Residence in 2019.
Diane Edison, who is professor of art at the University of Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art, will spend Spring Term 2019 on the Hollins campus. The artist-in-residence program enables the university to bring a recognized artist to campus every year to work in a campus studio and teach an art seminar open to all students. During their time at Hollins, the artist-in-residence is a vital part of the university and greater Roanoke communities.
Edison, who creates her work using color pencil on black paper, focuses on portraiture with an emphasis on the autobiographical. Her images are thematically narrative in presentation and psychological in nature. New York City’s Forum Gallery, DC Moore Gallery, and Tatischef Gallery; the Leeway Foundation in Philadelphia; and Clark Atlanta University in Georgia are among the U.S. venues where her art has been exhibited or collected. Overseas, her paintings have been on display in the official residences of the American ambassadors in Moscow, Russia, and N’djamena, Chad.
Edison’s exhibitions have been reviewed by The New York Times, The New Yorker magazine, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Philadelphia Enquirer, Art News, and the St. Louis Dispatch. Reproductions of her artwork were featured twice in Artists Magazine. In 2010-11, she traveled to Bulgaria as a Fulbright Scholar, and she is a past recipient of the Anonymous Was a Woman Award and the Georgia Women in the Arts Recognition Award. Her textbook, Dynamic Color Painting for Beginners, came out in 2008 and subsequently was published in the United Kingdom, China, and Spain.
In the fight to stop the spread of Lyme disease in the United States, one crucial question has baffled scientists: Why is the disease so prevalent in the northeastern U.S., but in the southeast, relatively few cases have been reported? The trend persists even though the blacklegged ticks (also called deer ticks) that transmit Lyme through their bites can be found throughout the eastern part of the country.
Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies/Environmental Science Liz Gleim, who is also a tick biologist, says one hypothesis has recently gained traction: the possibility that “the northern and southern populations of the blacklegged tick are genetically distinct, and that difference manifests itself in terms of how ticks quest for a host. A questing tick is one that’s crawling up on the tips of vegetation and hoping a human or animal host is going to brush up against them and they can hop a ride.”
Northern ticks have been found to be far more aggressive when questing and thus more likely to get on people than southern ticks, who tend to live in leaf litter where humans are less prone to come in contact with them.
Even within Virginia, Gleim notes that ticks from the coastal, central, and southwestern parts of the state exhibit different questing behaviors from one another. This phenomenon is the basis for a project this summer in which Gleim is collaborating with scientists from Old Dominion University and the University of Richmond to discover what makes ticks tick.
“Ticks along the coast are generally not as aggressive as those here in the Roanoke area. So what we’re doing is collecting ticks locally, around Richmond, and along the Virginia seaboard, sort of an east-west gradient, in the hope that we get populations that may be showing different questing behaviors,” Gleim explains. “Is their behavior actually controlled by genes, or it prompted by three distinctive climates? The hope is that we’ll be able to find out.”
Gleim and her fellow researchers are taking the ticks they gather between Roanoke, Richmond, and the coast, and placing them in what she describes as “tick arenas,” containers that are located in mature hardwood forest areas, the preferred habitat of blacklegged ticks. At Hollins, the tick arenas have been situated in the woods adjacent to the northeastern part of campus.
“It’s a very cool way in which we can take advantage of our beautiful natural forests that are convenient to campus,” Gleim states. “We’re really lucky because the folks who are conducting research in Richmond and on the coast are having to use public lands, so they have to go through the process of working with state and public officials and securing permission.”
Students from Hollins and the University of Richmond will be working with Gleim on the project at the Hollins site. “They’ll be coming out multiple times a week to make observations on the ticks to see what sorts of questing behaviors they are exhibiting.”
Faculty members from the biology and environmental studies/environmental science programs at Hollins assisted Gleim in constructing the tick arenas and addressing a key concern: how to ensure the ticks they’re studying stay in place while keeping out the ticks that already live in the surrounding forest. “We’re putting sterilized leaf litter into the containers so that we’re certain we’re not inadvertently picking up ticks that aren’t part of our research,” Gleim says. “Installing metal flashing and chicken wire will not only help us keep ticks out but also prevent small mammals or wildlife from entering the arenas. The last zone of defense is this sticky material that’s almost like a paste that we use to coat the inside of each area. So, any ticks that try to leave or enter the arenas will get stuck.”
Gleim and her fellow researchers will be placing ticks in the arenas during the last couple of weeks in May. The study will continue through early and mid-July to coincide with when the blacklegged tick is naturally active.
Conducting tick research at Hollins is fitting. As Gleim notes, “Roanoke itself is a major focal point for Lyme disease. If you look at a map of Lyme cases in the U.S., there’s literally this bright red spot on Roanoke. Areas north of here have a seen a lot of it, too, but southward, there isn’t much. One theory is that northern ticks are making their way down through the mountains to the southern region.”
Featured photo: Associate Professor of Biology Morgan Wilson (left) and Professor of Biology Renee Godard work on several of the tick arenas that will facilitate this summer’s study of blacklegged tick behavior and the impact of genetics versus the environment.
The 2017 winner of France’s top cultural honor will be teaching students, exhibiting her work, and leading a special symposium on the Hollins campus this spring.
South African photographer and activist Zanele Muholi will be Hollins’ 2018 Frances Niederer Artist-in-Residence during the university’s Spring Term, which begins January 31. The Artist-in-Residence program enables Hollins to bring a recognized artist to campus every year. While in residence, they work in a campus studio and teach an art seminar open to all students. During their time at Hollins, the artist-in-residence is a vital part of the campus and greater Roanoke community.
Muholi has earned international acclaim for her efforts to document South Africa’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. In 2017, her work has been shown in galleries and museums in New York, Cape Town, London, Amsterdam, and Berlin. She is perhaps best known for her ongoing series and self-described “lifetime project” Faces and Phases, which includes black-and-white photographs of lesbian and trans South Africans. The series began in 2006 and was the basis for a 2014 book that featured 258 images from the project’s first eight years.
A new book of 100 self-portraits, Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, is scheduled for publication in April 2018. In November 2017, she was actively involved in New York City’s Performa 17, “a leader in commissioning artists whose work has collectively shaped a new chapter in the multi-century legacy of visual artists working in live performance.”
Muholi has earned numerous awards, most recently and most notably France’s Chevalier in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters) for 2017, which recognizes those who have “distinguished themselves in the domain of artistic or literary creation or for the contribution they have made to art and literature in France and the world.” Upon receiving the honor, Muholi stated, “We work hard to create content that scholars and the rest of the world are able to use to highlight the many challenges faced by the LGBT communities….[It] is important to make sure that we unite the LGBT community so that people know that we too exist as professionals and as creators of great content.” Other honors include the 2016 Infinity Award from New York’s International Center of Photography, which recognizes major contributions and emerging talent in the fields of photojournalism, art, fashion photography, and publishing.
Highlighting Muholi’s residency at Hollins will be an exhibition of her work in the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum, February 8 – April 22. The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, will open with a presentation by Muholi on Thursday, February 8, at 6 p.m.
Muholi will also headline a symposium, “Becoming Visible – A Celebration of LGBTQ+ Lives,” on Friday and Saturday, April 13 and 14, in the Richard Wetherill Visual Arts Center. In addition to programs with Muholi, Boy Erased author Garrard Conley, and local LGBTQ+ activist Gregory Rosenthal, the symposium will include a screening of the documentary film Born This Way and an open microphone session where members of the audience can comment and share stories.
“Zanele focuses chiefly on the black South African LGBTQIA+ community,” said Sinazo Chiya of the Stevenson gallery in South Africa, “but the significance of her work reverberates outwards to celebrate queer and marginalised communities the world over, which is crucial in our turbulent and often divisive social climate.”
Hollins University Professor of English Cathryn Hankla is among the nine authors who are finalists for the 20th Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards.
The Library of Virginia’s annual literary awards recognize the best books published the previous year by Virginia authors or on a Virginia theme. The winners in each of the three categories (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry) receive a monetary prize of $2,500. The finalists are chosen by an independent panel of judges from hundreds of books nominated for the awards.
Established in 1976 and presented by the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and the Department of English at the University of Rochester, the Kafka Prize is given annually to a woman who is a U.S. citizen and has written the best book-length work of prose fiction, be it a novel, short story, or experimental writing. Previous winners include such distinguished authors as Toni Morrison, Ursula Le Guin, and Anne Tyler.
According to the Kafka Prize webpage, the award honors its namesake, “a young editor who was killed in a car accident just as her career was beginning. Those who knew her believed she would do much to further the causes of literature and women. Her family, friends, and professional associates created the endowment from which the prize is bestowed, in memory of Janet Heidinger Kafka and the literary standards and personal ideals for which she stood.”
Poliner will participate in a reading, award ceremony, and book signing at the University of Rochester on November 2.
As Close to Us as Breathing is the story of a close-knit Jewish family that strives to cope following a tragedy. The novel is “vivid, complex, and beautifully written,” said Edward P. Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Known World. “[It]brims with characters who leave an indelible impression on the mind and heart. Elizabeth Poliner is a wonderful talent and she should be read widely, and again and again.”
The Kafka Prize is the latest of several honors the novel has received. In May, the book was named a finalist for the 2017 Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award. Last November, As Close to Us as Breathing was selected as one of Amazon’s Top 100 Editors’ Picks for 2016 and an Amazon Best Book for March of that year.
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In his commentary published August 7 in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “How Teacher-Scholars Prepare Students for an Evolving World,” Associate Professor of Philosophy and Dean of Academic Services Michael Gettings argues, “As faculty, our research informs our teaching and benefits our students. One is not a teacher and a scholar, one is a teacher-scholar. Through scholarship, teachers model good learning and offer special opportunities for students. The benefits of this model for both teacher and student are maximized in the liberal-arts setting where students can build strong relationships with faculty.”
Gettings goes on to state that teacher-scholars help students develop the skills identified by developmental psychologists Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek as essential for the workplace of the future (“the six C’s”): collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creativity, and confidence.