Director: Connie Voisine
Coordinators: Mindy Bezdek, Erin Carlyle, Ross Howerton, Josh Randall
History and Background
For more than 25 years, La Sociedad para las Artes has acted as the main outreach organization for the English department. Every year, the organization hosts free evening readings of national caliber, of readers who also offer manuscript consultation to graduate students and craft talks to high school students, undergraduates, graduate students and community members. Since 1996, we have offered the Writers in the Schools (WITS) program, which supports our impoverished school system with one of the lowest literacy scores in the country. Finally, our annual Hunger Benefit, part of a nation-wide movement where writers coordinate reading events to raise money to fight hunger, has raised at least $45,000 for Casa de Peregrinos, a local food bank.
La Sociedad’s priorities are to interface with the school system and the community, helping to tear down boundaries between “town” and “gown.” As part of a major research university in one of the poorest counties in the country, La Sociedad seeks out opportunities to involve the English department locally, in order to increase public access to our university, making positive connections between all involved. These connections, benefiting the community as they do, also improve our university, since social responsiveness makes NMSU a more flexible, active organization, qualities that generate vital kinds of research.
Distinguished Visiting Writer Series
The cornerstone of La Sociedad’s activities, the Distinguished Visiting Writer Series began more than 30 years ago by now-retired faculty members, Joe Somoza and Keith Wilson. Since then, with a very modest budget, La Sociedad has provided NMSU, Las Cruces, and El Paso with a steady stream of the major contemporary regional, national, and international writers of our day, including Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo; National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award winner Andrea Barrett; Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky; MacArthur “Genius Grant” Award winners Ed Hirsh, Barrett, and David Foster Wallace; and Nobel Prize short-listed Chinese dissident poet Bei Dao. Other writers have received literature’s highest honors, serving as models and inspiration for our local audience: Tim O’Brien, Ana Castillo, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Denise Chavez, Larry Brown, Zhang Ur, Dagoberto Gilb, and others. Our readings are popular and many writers comment on the numbers we attract to their readings. Poetry readings usually have at least 100 people in attendance and fiction readings have up to 400 and sometimes more. The audience comprises a mix of students, professors and community members in equal parts and the readings are always free.
The effects of such a series are numerous. Students and non-students both learn that literature is a living thing, an active process that can be a part of a person’s life. The Distinguished Visiting Writers give lectures concerning the craft and process of writing, either in the public schools or on campus, and all are welcome. The topics range from the translation of Chinese poetry, the intricacies of dialogue in short stories, to the importance of landscape to literature today. During these lectures, people read work, think about the writing process and interact informally with the writers, asking questions long after the talk is over. The series remains responsive to the interests and needs of NMSU and the community in its scheduling, collaborating with Chicano Programs, the Languages and Linguistics Department, the Asian Studies program, Alma De Arte Charter School, the Border Book Festival and locally owned presses such as Zephyr Press and Lannan Award-winning Cinco Puntos Press.
- Feb. 3: John Keene with MFA Candidate Tara Westbrook
- Feb. 24: Lily Hoang with MFA Candidate Allison Field Bell
- Mar. 10: Adam Crittendon with Lex Wiliford
- Apr. 21: Joseph Scapellato and Claire Vaye Watkins and Symposium with Lee K. Abbot
- May 5: Karen Brennan with MFA Candidate Rebecca Hoffman
All readings start at 7:30 pm in the Health and Social Services auditorium, room 101A.
For a list of past readings, visit http://english.nmsu.edu/list-of-past-nelsonboswell-readings/.
We are seeking to establish a permanent endowed fund. This fund will be managed by the New Mexico State University Foundation, and earnings will support our many creative writing programs, including our visiting writers and reading series as well as creative writing workshops for the children in the Las Cruces Public Schools. Donations to La Sociedad Para Las Artes are gratefully accepted and tax deductible. Any checks should be made payable to NMSU Foundation and sent to the address below:
La Sociedad para las Artes
New Mexico State University
Department of English, Box 3E
Las Cruces, NM 88003
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