| 03.17.2018

Living the world of Hemingway – UI’s annual Hemingway Festival celebrates the life and influence of a prominent author


Although Ernest Hemingway never traveled as far north as Moscow, Ron McFarland, a University of Idaho English professor, said the author had an undeniable love for a more southern Idaho.

“He loved that part of the state, it”s where he wrote a good deal of “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and he famously said it reminded him of Spain,” McFarland said. “He loved the hunting and the fishing, of course, but he didn”t write much about Idaho.”

Jennifer Hawk | Courtesy
The Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre, located in Downtown Moscow, promotes the UI Hemingway Festival on the marquee.

It was the author”s aforementioned affection for the state that prompted the tradition of a Hemingway Festival.

The festival first began where Hemingway put down his Idaho roots, in the Sun Valley area. McFarland said the festival ran successfully for a few years until the economy took a turn for the worse in 2008 and sponsors could no longer donate as much money.

“We sort of picked it up, we liked it, so we picked it up ourselves,” McFarland said. “This is our seventh annual, coming up this year.”

Now in its seventh year, the UI Hemingway Festival has developed into an annual celebration that Program Coordinator, Jennifer Hawk, said she hopes brings together community members and students alike.

Hawk said the festival, which is sponsored by the English department and runs from March 2-5, will be kicked off with a “sneak peek” reading event where UI faculty members and local authors read from works that are in the process of being published.

“They”re going to read from their forthcoming work, so they”re going to give readings from stuff that has never been read before,” Hawk said. “Kim Barnes was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, she”ll be giving a reading, her husband, Robert Wrigley, he”s an internationally famed poet, and Daniel Orozco has just done some phenomenal work as well and all those people will be reading.”

The festival will also feature a visiting author and winner of the PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award, Arna Bontemps Hemenway.

“He”s going to be coming here from Texas and he”s going to spend the week with us,” Hawk said. “During that time, he”s going to give readings at various places, he”s going to provide workshops for graduate students and, I mean, I don”t mind of some undergraduate students want to attend as well.”

While there are a number of festival workshops for students, Hawk said one of her main goals as program coordinator is to expand the festival and make it even more inclusive for students.

“We also added some more academic opportunities for our students, so the editor of the “Hemingway Review” will be here,” Hawk said. “She”s offering a workshop for anyone who is interested in publishing in a literary journal or academic journal – she”s going to be incredible.”

While the festival almost lost momentum a few years ago, McFarland said since then, it has continued to grow.

Jennifer Hawk | Courtesy
Decorations greet guests at an event held during last year’s festival.

McFarland, who wrote the recently published book “Appropriating Hemingway,” said he believes people are drawn to Hemingway”s writing because of the author”s simplistic prose and straight-forward writing style.

“I think he did a great job of making the ordinary and the sort of simple plain style, rightly or wrongly, a kind of American straight-forward pragmatic kind of prose, or even journalistic prose, he made that a kind of literary voice,” McFarland said. “He”s one of those guys who can navigate the terrain of pop fiction and literary fiction.”

In addition to his writing style, McFarland said Hemingway is often known for his travels and strong international presence.

“It”s interesting, I think probably he”s one of the few American writers who has as bit a reputation internationally as he does a national one,” McFarland said. “This guy lived in Spain, France, Italy, he was in England during World War II as a war correspondent operating out of there, in Africa on a couple different occasions, 20 or so years in Cuba, there”s no American writer who really lived the world the like Hemingway did.”

Hemingway”s international presence is  something that”s highlighted throughout
the festival. The author”s relationship with Cuba, in particular, will be celebrated through the festival”s annual fundraising dinner, “A Moveable Feast.”

Hawk said the dinner helps raise money for the English department”s Hemingway Fellowship, which is rewarded to a graduate student in UI”s MFA program and gives the student time to work on a book.

“This year, we”re celebrating Cuba, because Hemingway had a huge Idaho-Cuba connection,” Hawk said. “He would go back and forth between Idaho and Cuba, so we”re celebrating a Havanna Nights.”

To follow the dinner”s theme of “Havanna Nights,” Hawk said the UI Ballroom Dance Team will be performing a Cuban dance at the fundraiser.

Hawk said she first began planning the festival in September of 2015 and although coordinating four days” worth of events was challenging, she said she appreciates what the festival brings to the community.

“I really enjoy doing this kind of thing as far as event planning and working toward something that really benefits our community,” Hawk said. “That”s our main aim is bringing learning and literature into our community and building community through learning and literature.”

Corrin Bond can be reached at arg-arts@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @CorrBond

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