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For LitHop 2018, the show goes on

Back for its third year, LitHop 2018 boasts more writers than ever. Fresno’s annual literary festival unfolds Saturday, May 21, with readings throughout the afternoon at various locations in the Tower District, followed by a keynote event at Fresno City College. Everything is free.

The 45-minute readings kick off at 1 p.m. and continue hourly through 6 p.m. Poetry and prose are grouped together by theme, with a little something for everyone. (There’s even a session on “Cat Poems.”) Much like the Rogue Festival, with its abbreviated performance slots and multiple venues, LitHop conveys an overwhelming sense of literary abundance. So many words to appreciate!

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Carmen Giménez Smith is the 2018 LitHop headline reader.

The festival’s executive director, Juan Luis Guzmán, phrases it well: “The interest and appreciation people have for LitHop is a testament to the refuge of the written word. Attending the event is much like pressing ‘pause’ on the white noise of the day and taking shelter in poetry and prose.”

The festival had to regroup this past week because of the national outrage du’jour that we’ve all heard too much about. (Eight stories plus an editorial and op-ed, Fresno Bee? Really?) Carmen Giménez Smith, a finalist for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle award in poetry and the author of a memoir and six poetry collections, is the headline reader. She replaces Randa Jarrar.

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I hope we can get all the vitriol-hysteria-exasperation-click-chasing of the past few days out of our collective systems by Saturday and concentrate on the positives of LitHop.

To that end, here are five recommendations for writers to hear:

1.

Carmen Giménez Smith was recently appointed as co-director for CantoMundo, a national poetry organization housed at Columbia University. She is on the English faculty at Virginia Tech, co-poetry editor of The Nation and the publisher of Noemi Press.

Along with her new duties as the festival’s headline reader, Giménez Smith will continue with her original LitHop appearance as part of “Cada Cabeza es un Mundo: CantoMundo Poets.” She’ll be joined by Guzmán, Sara Borjas and Joshua Escobar a.k.a. DJ Ashtrae.

“The world of poetry is better for it as more and more Latinx poets are producing poetry buoyed by the support of their community,” she says.

After a rapturous reception for her book “Milk and Filth,” she has a new title coming soon titled “Cruel Futures,” published by City Lights Press.

“I’m so thrilled and honored to have published a book with City Lights, and I feel like that occasioned a very political book from me,” she says.

Details: “Cada Cabeza es un Mundo: CantoMundo Poets,” 5-5:45 p.m. Saturday, The Revue, 620 E. Olive Ave., Fresno. Headline event, 7 p.m. Saturday, Fresno City College Old Administration Building Auditorium.


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Brynn Saito poses at the monument to Japanese Americans at Simonian Farms.

2.

Brynn Saito hasn’t even started her new position as a professor in Fresno State’s creative writing program — which she’ll do in August — but she’s already made her literary mark in the city. I last wrote about her in November when I focused on her innovative theater piece “Hold This Stone,” a production of the Yonsei Memory Project, which she co-directs with Nikiko Masumoto. She is the author of two books of poetry, “Power Made Us Swoon” and “The Palace of Contemplating.” Her panel also features Lee Herrick, Tim Z. Hernandez and Lisa Lee Herrick.

Details: “Tell Me About It: Writing About Memory and Reclamation,” 6 p.m. Saturday, The Revue, 620 E. Olive Ave., Fresno.


3.

There are youth voices in abundance. LitHop features several groups of teen authors this year from middle school through high school on topics ranging from mental illness, feminism, masculinity, and environmentalism. There’s even a group of students coming in all the way from San Francisco.

Details: “Inside My Head: Teens shed light on the realities of adolescent mental health,” 2 p.m. Saturday, and “Brothers for Sisters,” 5 p.m. Saturday, Cindy’s Frozen Yogurt and Desserts, 802 E. Olive Ave., Fresno.


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Tim Z. Hernandez is a professor at the University of Texas-El Paso.

4.

Tim Z. Hernandez is a prominent name in the Valley’s literary scene. I wrote an extensive interview with him in January 2017 about his book “All They Will Call You.” He’s a master storyteller and brings warmth to any reading. He has three collections of poems: “Natural Takeover of Small Things,” “Culture of Flow,” and “Skin Tax,” which won an American Book Award.

Details: “Tell Me About It: Writing About Memory and Reclamation,” 6 p.m. Saturday, The Revue, 620 E. Olive Ave., Fresno.


5.

Sasha Pimentel was born in the Philippines and raised in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. She is the author of “For Want of Water: and other poems” (Beacon Press, 2017), selected by Gregory Pardlo as a winner of the 2016 National Poetry Series, and longlisted for the 2018 PEN Open Book Award. Her panel presents four women of color with Fresno ties, countless awards, and beautiful, important new books to celebrate.

Details: “A Guided Tour of the In-Between,” 6 p.m. Saturday, Goldstein’s Mortuary & Delicatessen, 1279 N. Wishon Ave.

UPDATED 4/21: Carmen Giménez Smith is no longer the editor-in-chief of Puerto Del Sol. 


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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com

Comments (2)

  • Great article, Donald. Thanks for the tips!

    reply
  • Margie Vogt

    This will be my first time attending LitHop. I was made aware of it this year because my daughter will be reading her poetry as part of one of the panels. Thanks for filling us in on some of the talent that will be presenting their work. It sounds like it will be a very interesting afternoon!
    What a great opportunity to hear such a wide variety of Valley authors.

    reply

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