Recapping the 2019 Neustadt Lit Fest

by  WLT

(Photos: Joseph Legaspi, OU's Contemporary Dance Oklahoma, and Margarita Engle and Lilliam Rivera)

Over the course of three days (October 15–17, 2019), WLT’s most recent festival involved some two dozen writers, artists, and scholars; half a dozen campus and community partners; eight public events; the deliberations of the 2020 Neustadt Prize jury; and a concluding gala banquet. More than two thousand attendees enjoyed meeting the visiting writers; getting books signed; attending readings, panels, and keynote talks; and witnessing literary history in the making. A highlight of the week featured more than twenty students from OU’s Contemporary Dance Oklahoma ensemble performing adaptations of poems from Margarita Engle’s verse novel The Surrender Tree, set to original music and choreography. Reflecting on her experience, one audience member wrote: “The dance portion was especially beautiful, as was seeing how moved Engle was by having her poetry brought to life in such a new way. The keynote and following Q&A moved me to tears. I have loved poetry since I could read, and to see the form given such weight and importance felt deeply reassuring, especially as she spoke of the ways we use poetry to transmute pain and suffering into art and connection” (Elizabeth Stevens).