First Book Fest ’15

First book header


University Park, PA—Five recent graduates of Penn State’s Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing will return to campus to read from award-winning first books. This unusual burst of publication success represents a broad range of interests, from coming of age as a Jewish woman, to rural life in Appalachia, to an unofficial lyric biography of Kanye West.

The First Book Festival will begin on Friday, April 3, at 7:30 pm at Foster Auditorium, Paterno Library, with Geffrey Davis, recipient of the BOA Editions’ 2013 A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize, and author of Revising the Storm. Davis will read with his former teacher Robin Becker, Liberal Arts Research Professor of English and Women’s Studies, who will share from her new collection, Tiger Heron.

On Saturday, April 4, at 1:00 pm, Sarah Blake, National Endowment for the Arts fellow and author of Mr. West, will read with William Woolfitt, winner of the Southern Poetry Breakthrough Prize for his book, Beauty Strip.

Between the afternoon readings, a reception and book signing will take place in the Mann Assembly Room, Paterno Library.

At 4 pm, Katherine Bode-Lang, 2014 winner of The American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize for The Reformation will read with Rachel Mennies, winner of the 2013 Walt McDonald First-Book Prize in Poetry for The Glad Hand of God Points Backward.

At 7:30 pm, the First Book Festival will conclude with an open mic reading hosted by Julia Spicher Kasdorf, professor of English and Women’s Studies. First book authors, audience members and students are all invited to read new poems at this event.

All events are free and open to the public, and will take place in Foster Auditorium of the Paterno Library.

In addition to the readings, the visiting poets will conduct poetry workshops for members of the community at two locations:

  • Cool Beans, 141 West High Street in Bellefonte, and
  • Panera Bread, 148 South Allen Street in State College.

The workshops will run from 9 am to 11 am on Saturday morning. The workshops are free but require advance reservation. For more information or to sign up, contact Julia Spicher Kasdorf at

The First Book Festival is sponsored by The Penn State Alumni Teaching Fellow Award, The English Department, College of Liberal Arts, and the University Libraries.

Schedule of Events

First Book Festival Poet Bios:

Sarah Blake

Katherine Bode-Lang

Geffrey Davis

Rachel Mennies

William Woolfitt


Skip to toolbar