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Herrernan To Read for OPWC

By Ronnie K. Stephens
Award-winning author and University of Arkansas professor Michael Heffernan will be the featured reader for Ozark Poets and Writers Collective on Tuesday at Nightbird Books in Fayetteville.
Heffernan has taught at the University of Arkansas for more than 20 years and has a well-established reputation among his past and present students that rivals his prolific career. He has published eight books of poetry; his most recent title, “The Odor of Sanctity,” was published by Salmon Poetry just a few months ago.
Heffernan received his Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of Massachusetts. He taught at Oakland University in Michigan and Pittsburgh State University in Kansas before coming to the University of Arkansas. He frequently offers courses focusing on several of his favorite poets: Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, William Butler Yeats and William Shakespeare. As his poetry suggests, Heffernan often derives his innovative verse from traditional forms and a precise understanding of classical languages.
Students describe Heffernan in many ways, but the word “loquacious” comes up often. Like his Irish ancestors, he is not afraid to share his thoughts and the stories that inspired them. At times, his lectures seem so far from the topic at hand that most fail to note any connection at all. Nonetheless, Heffernan instills passion in any student willing to listen, and he nourishes talent carefully-he seems to know exactly what approach particular students will benefit from, always knowing whom to praise and whom to criticize.
A man of many words, one might expect his poems to be comprised of long, heavy lines. More often than not, though, Heffernan presents the reader with poems so delicate and vulnerable that it becomes easy to mistake the speaker for an old friend. His phrases are natural and they control the pace of their respective poems.

… Your reluctance to converse
apparently derived from something sad
and far away. Tendencies to fall into silences
settled between us often from your side.

Heffernan does not just find inspiration in the beauty of the English language he has mastered the ability to sculpt beauty using a language that many have written off as broken and awkward.
In many ways, his style is a bolt of lightning amidst the ever complacent swarm of contemporary poetry. While readers are being inundated with books full of uninspired verse and stale readings in their university auditoriums, Heffernan carries an electric storm in the back of his throat. Though he professes that he writes only for the page, he often scolds his students for mumbling their poems during workshop. He reminds them that they must read their poems with pride if they expect anyone else to listen, a technique he practices at his own readings.

Heffernan reads every poem as though they were the last words the audience will hear, or the first that they have ever really listened to. On Tuesday night, Nightbird Books will play host to a rare occasion. A resident of Fayetteville for seven years myself, I have only had the pleasure of hearing Heffernan read his own work once. This is truly an event that you cannot afford to miss.
Ozark Poets and Writers Collective meets every last Tuesday of the month at Nightbird Books. These events begin with an open mic at 7 p.m., followed by the feature set lasting about 30 minutes, and concludes with a second open mic. Events are free, but a hat is passed for the feature artist. In addition, refreshments and drinks are provided for a small donation. The UA Press will give away a book during intermission, and the bookstore will be open to customers. Further information can be found at www.uark.edu/ua/mmasull/opwc.

‘Thanksgiving: The True Story’, by Penny Colman

Kids will gobble up this new book

The size of a basketball hoop. As big as a tire. Or … larger than a bike rim. No, wait — the size of a small planet. That’s how big your plate will be this Thanksgiving, because just thinking of all that food makes you really hungry.
“Thanksgiving: The True Story” is a book that kids will gobble up.
Ever since Halloween, kids have been learning about Thanksgiving in school. Maybe spending time in art class drawing pictures of Pilgrim men with silver-buckled hats, women with white aprons and Indian guests with feathers in their hair.
What would you say if you found out that all that might be wrong? For many years, schools have taught that the Pilgrims landed the Mayflower on Plymouth Rock and had a feast to celebrate. They invited Massasoit and his people, and served turkey and corn, pumpkin pie and bread. And it all happened in 1621, right?
Certain people in Texas say “no.” Some in Florida and Virginia don’t believe it, either. Some historians claim that “official” Thanksgiving feasts were celebrated elsewhere, long before Pilgrims even thought about sailing across the ocean. Pilgrims, by the way, wore brightly colored clothing and probably never had buckles on their hats.
Believe it or not, the United States didn’t have an “official” Thanksgiving until Sarah Josepha Hale made it a personal mission to give us one.
Hale firmly believed that Americans needed to unite on a holiday of gratitude. Over many years, she wrote hundreds of letters to influential government officials in support of a national Day of Thanks.
Finally, on October 3, 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November to be Thanksgiving Day. Almost 80 years later, Franklin Delano Roosevelt changed the date to the fourth Thursday, after pressure from storeowners.

So what will you and your family do on Thanksgiving?  For most of us, it’s not Turkey Day without the turkey, but “traditional” dishes vary from family to family. You might watch football after feasting, but cheering for your team is a tradition that’s less than 60 years old. And you might be surprised to know that very early celebrations were quiet and serious with no games and no socializing. Some people even tried to pass laws making it illegal to have fun on Thanksgiving!
Does your little turkey love Thanksgiving? If so, this book will be a big hit at your feast this year.
Using personal and historical accounts, interviews and newspaper articles from the past, author Penny Colman shows kids how Thanksgiving has evolved into the cherished holiday we know today. She explains how myths, mistruths and traditions got their starts and she uncovers little-known facts that children will love to repeat at the kids table. Best of all, Colman doesn’t “talk down” to her readers, which teachers, parents and kids will appreciate.
If your 9- to 16-year-old loves learning about holidays, cultural traditions, or might just want to read something appropriate for the season, look for this book.

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