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UT Faculty to Read at Letters to the Earth Event

"Letters to the Earth" Poetry Event

In the Fall of 1913, Knoxville hosted the National Conservation Exposition; the Exposition, which was the first of its kind, focused on the need to preserve natural resources for future generations.   As Jack Neely, in his essay, “A Fair to Remember: Knoxville’s Conservation Exposition of 1913”  notes the fair brought over one million visitors to Knoxville and featured guests such as Booker T. Washington and Helen Keller. On October 12th, Knoxville will mark the 100th anniversary of that event with the Centennial Conservation Expo.  With historical displays, photographs and films, hands-on demonstrations and exhibits, children’s activities, live entertainment, athletic competitions, multimedia presentations, and events throughout the grounds of Chilhowee Park, the Expo will showcase Knoxville’s heritage and ongoing commitment to conservation.

On Sunday, 9/22, at 3pm, at Ijams Nature Center, in association with the Centennial Conservation Expo, the City of Knoxville & Ijams will present “Letters to the Earth: Songs and Poems of Conservation,” a reading of works inspired by the natural world. This event will feature the work of UT Creative Writing professors Marilyn Kallet and Arthur Smith as well as poets Jesse Graves, Jeff Daniel Marion, Linda Parsons Marion, and R.B. Morris.

  • Marilyn Kallet is the author of 16 books including The Love That Moves Me, poetry by Black Widow Press, 2013.  She has also translated Paul Eluard’s Last Love Poems (Derniers poèmes d’amour) and Benjamin Péret’s The Big Game (Le grand jeu).  Kallet directs the Creative Writing Program at the University of Tennessee, where she is Nancy Moore Goslee Professor of English.  Each spring she leads poetry workshops for the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Auvillar, France.  She has been awarded the Tennessee Arts Commission Literary Fellowship in Poetry, and was inducted into the East Tennessee Literary Hall of Fame in Poetry in 2005.
  • Arthur Smith’s Elegy on Independence Day, was awarded the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 1985; it was selected by the Poetry Society of American to receive the Norma Farber First Book Award.  His second book of poems, Orders of Affection, was published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 1996, and his third book, The Late World, was published in 2002, also by CMUP.  His most recent book is The Fortunate Era, published by CMUP in 2013.  His work has been honored with a “Discovery”/The Nation Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship, and two Pushcart Prizes. He is a professor of English at the University of Tennessee.
  • Linda Parsons Marion is an editor at the University of Tennessee and the author of three poetry collections. She served as poetry editor of Now & Then magazine for many years and has received the Tennessee Arts Commission literary fellowship and the 2012 George Scarbrough Award in Poetry, among others. Marion’s work has appeared in journals such as The Georgia Review, Iowa Review,  Asheville Poetry Review, Shenandoah, and Louisiana Literature, in Ted Kooser’s syndicated column American Life in Poetry, and in numerous anthologies, including Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia, and The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume III: Contemporary Appalachia.
  • Jeff Daniel Marion has published nine poetry collections, four poetry chapbooks, and a children’s book. His poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Southern Poetry Review, Shenandoah, Atlanta Review, Tar River Poetry, and many others. In 2011, he was awarded the James Still Award for Writing about the Appalachian South by the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Marion served as the Jack E. Reese Writer-in-Residence for the University of Tennessee Libraries, Knoxville, from 2009–2011. In spring 2013, his work and career were celebrated at Carson-Newman University and Walters State Community College.
  • RB Morris is a poet and songwriter, solo performer and band leader, and a sometimes playwright and actor from Knoxville, Tennessee. He has published books of poetry, including Early Fires (Iris Press) and Keeping the Bees Employed (Rich Mountain Bound), and music albums including Spies Lies and Burning Eyes and his most recent solo project Rich Mountain Bound. He wrote and acted in The Man who Lives Here is Loony, a one-man play taken from the life and work of writer James Agee, and was instrumental in founding a park dedicated to Agee in Knoxville. Morris served as the Jack E. Reese Writer-in-Residence at the University of Tennessee from 2004-2008, and was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame in 2009.
  • Jesse Graves grew up in Sharps Chapel, Tennessee, the community where his ancestors settled in the 1780s. He is an Assistant Professor of English at East Tennessee State University, where he was granted the 2012 New Faculty Award from the College of Arts & Sciences. Graves’ first collection of poems, Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pine, won the 2012 Weatherford Award in Poetry, and the Poetry Book of the Year Award from the Appalachian Writers’ Association. His chapbook, Basin Ghosts, is forthcoming from Texas Review Press.

Additional information about the Centennial Conservation Expo can be found at


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