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Sun Mar 23, 2014, 11:15 AM

Kalamazoo quietly emerging as a literary hot spot

(Detroit Free Press) Kalamazoo is a midsize city, but in literary terms, it’s gigantic.

The southwest Michigan hub, home to Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College, has quietly become a thriving literary town that cultivates extraordinary readers and writers whose accomplishments are attracting national attention. The city will host the inaugural Kalamazoo Poetry Festival on April 4-5, featuring acclaimed writers, workshops, readings and discussions. But literary enthusiasm has long been teeming in this community of 74,000 that lies halfway between Chicago and Detroit.

“You can’t throw a rock without hitting a poet,” says Bonnie Jo Campbell, one of the most celebrated anchors of Kalamazoo’s literary scene. She grew up in the area, moved away for a time and returned. “American Salvage,” her 2009 short-story collection, was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics’ Circle Award. Her novel “Once Upon a River,” published in 2011, was described by Entertainment Weekly as a “demonstration of outstanding skills on the river of American literature.”

Though Kalamazoo’s writers are diverse enough to defy generalizations, its standout literature fuses lyrical intensity with powerful stories. Campbell’s “American Salvage” and “Once Upon a River,” for example, delve into the sacred and profane in southwest Michigan’s rural landscape. David Small’s “Stitches” — another National Book Award finalist — is full of menacing silences and rich vulnerability. Stuart Dybek, a stalwart of WMU’s writing program, authored the story collections “Coast of Chicago” and “I Sailed With Magellan,” which both find the surreal in the grittiness of urban landscapes. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.freep.com/article/20140323/ENT05/303230042/kalamazoo-authors-poets

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