By Evans Ousley
On the cold and drizzly night of October 28, students, professors, and community members alike gathered in McGriff Alumni House for The Sewanee Review’s Fall Open House. The event was so well attended that many attendees had to sit on the floor or stand around the corner to listen to the great works of literature presented that night. Sewanee alumnus and Aiken Taylor fellow Robert Walker (C’15) welcomed all attendees to this “night of enchantment”—one that he always anticipated as a student—to experience “a river of literature” from works that have been published in The Sewanee Review. The selections read were written by great authors, but Walker reminded the attendees that they “weren’t legends or gods, but men and women like us.” Professor of English and highly acclaimed author Kevin Wilson read “Jujitsu” by Eleanor Ross Taylor, published in the autumn of 1969. “Planting Garlic” by Paddy Bushe was published in the summer of 2006 and was read by Ansley McDurmon. This piece resonated with the Greenhouse resident who worked at St. Mary’s Convent this summer and spent many of her days in the organic prayer garden.
Walker Percy’s essay “Metaphor as Mistake” was read by Peter Davis and was published in the winter of 1958. John Willis read “The Page,” “Lunch,” and “Poetry” by Billy Collins, published in the fall of 2012 and winter of 2015. Willis shares a love of literature with his youngest son, Aaron and chose to read pieces written by Aaron’s favorite poet. Laney Wood read “The Iron Trap” by Ann Lohner, published in the fall of 2015. “The Frontiers of Criticism” by T. S. Elliot is an essay that compares the work of the critic and that of the educator. This piece was published in the autumn of 1956 and read by Elizabeth Walker. Kelly Malone read “Tracing Paradise: A Meditation on Milton, Chores, and a Private Life” by Dawn Potter, published in the spring of 2007. Wendell Berry’s “Sabbaths 2013” XIII, XIV, XIX were published in the fall of 2014 and read by Alec Hill. Robin Lee read Caroline Gordon’s story “The Waterfall,” published in the autumn of 1950. “Mother Ireland” by Edna O’Brein, published in the winter of 1976 and “Vision under October Mountain: A Love Poem” by Robert Penn Warren were published in the spring of 1966. Susan Core read these two selections; however Core doesn’t think the last eight lines of Warren work allow it to be considered a love poem, “so [she] omitted them.”
Each reader chose the selections they read and the personal connection they had with the piece could be seen in the way they presented the work and engaged the audience in the words of each work. The atmosphere of the night was warm and inviting; all attendees enjoyed not only incredible literature, but great food catered by Julia’s and wonderful conversation as well. This event was a huge success, with an outstanding turnout and readings from some of The Sewanee Review’s best works.