Since 2006, writers from all over have travelled to the Vineyard to participate in the Martha’s Vineyard Writer’s Residency (MVWR), which is held twice a year in the spring and the fall. Founder Justen Ahren established the residency to “provide established and emerging writers with the time and space to create.”
While MVWR has grown into the newly founded Noepe Center for Literary Arts, the original intent is still at the core of the program. During September and October, 28 writers will take part in the second and last residency of the year and, twice this fall, the Vineyard community will get a chance to meet some of the participants and hear them read from their work in progress.
The Oak Bluffs Library hosts a reading by approximately 10 of the current residents today, Thursday, Sept. 12. A second event will be held on Thursday, Oct. 10, with writers who will be in residence at that time.
Working in poetry, prose, and children’s literature, the writers represent a wide age range — from 24 to 72, and hail from as far away as Amsterdam. Their level of accomplishment runs from award winners and bestselling authors, to those who are still supporting themselves with day jobs but have committed to spending the next two to six weeks focusing on their literary efforts. The writers are selected by Mr. Ahren from among hundreds of applicants, based on writing samples and letters.
Among those reading tonight are Colin Brezicki, a Rhodes Scholar and English teacher who is working on his third novel; short story writer Mary Otis, whose work has appeared in numerous journals including Best New American Voices and The Los Angeles Times and whose stories (published in the collection “Yes, Yes Cherries”) the New York Times has compared to the writing of bestselling author Lorrie Moore; and Lissette J. Norman, whose work appears in anthologies: “Moving Beyond Boundaries,” “Bum Rush The Page: A Def Poetry Jam,” and “Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social & Political Black Literature & Art.”
Returning for her third stint at the MVWR is Pushcart Prize nominated-poet, novelist, author, essayist, columnist, and educator, Sweta Vikram who has published books on poetry, a novel, and a nonfiction book of prose and poems.
A number of other poets are represented at the upcoming reading including poetry editor for the Boiler Journal and Pushcart Prize nominee Sara Levine; Ellen Goldstein whose work has appeared in a number of reviews and anthologies including “New Promised Land: An Anthology of Jewish American Poetry;” and full-time community organizer and published poet Kathleen O’Toole.
Perhaps the most well-rounded — and well travelled — of the current residents is Carol Rubinstein, a former dancer with the Paul Taylor Company who has not only written poetry and served as resident poet for the 212 Intermedia Workshop in Woodstock, New York, but has collected and translated indigenous oral poetry in Sarawak, East Malaysia, and Borneo.
Mr. Ahren, an accomplished poet in his own right, will read from his first published book, “Strange Catechism,” at The Yard on Wednesday, Sept. 18, along with singer/songwriter Dana Edelman. “It will be not so much a reading as a presentation of poetry and music,” he said.
The Noepe Center was launched this summer and hosted four writing workshops, as well as the two residencies. Moving into the off season, Mr. Ahren says he hopes to start a writer’s group, work with the local schools and establish some programs for teens.
Mr. Ahren is also in discussion with Lesley University in Cambridge about hosting a residency/workshop in June.
“I’m really happy with the start of it,” Mr. Ahren said of the new Noepe Center. “I know it takes time for something to be established in the landscape of the Island. We’re here to support literature and writing on the Vineyard.”
Readings with M.V. Writer’s Retreat, Thursday, Sept. 12, 6–8 pm, Oak Bluffs Library. 508-693-9433; oakbluffslibrary.org.