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LA GRANDE, Ore. – LA GRANDE, Ore. – After several years of only online events due to the pandemic, EOU’s visiting writers series, Ars Poetica, is set to return in person to the EOU Library with a visit by essayist Adrian Shirk on Thursday, March 2., at 6 p.m.
Community members are warmly invited. The event also will be livestreamed on EOU’s YouTube channel. Shirk’s latest book is Heaven Is a Place on Earth: Searching for an American Utopia, and her visit is a featured event related to the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences’ first annual theme, “utopia.” The goal of the new annual CAHSS theme is to galvanize interdisciplinary conversation across the college, the campus, and ultimately greater La Grande.
As the publisher describes Shirk’s book, “Heaven Is a Place on Earth is an idiosyncratic study of American utopian experiments—from the Shakers to the radical faerie communes of Short Mountain to the Bronx rebuilding movement—through the lens of one woman’s quest to create a more communal life in a time of unending economic and social precarity.”
A mix of reportage and personal essay, the book also features several long essays on Oregon history, including discussions of the utopian experiments of the Aurora Colony and Rajneeshpuram and the state’s history of Native displacement and other exclusion policies.
Shirk explores these Oregon subjects in part by way of her own deep family history in Portland, where she grew up. As Kirkus Reviews says, “Shirk writes deftly and in depth. . . . [Heaven Is a Place on Earth is a] rigorous, personalized argument for the continued relevance of an old idea.”
Shirk’s visit is supported by the Sandra and Carl Ellston Ars Poetica Fund and the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.
She will read from Heaven Is a Place on Earth and afterward be in conversation with Nick Neely, Assistant Professor of English/Writing. “It’s exciting that Ars Poetica finally will be back in the library where it’s had a long tradition,” says Neely, who organizes Ars Poetica. “Shirk is a talented young writer, and we’re lucky to be able to bring her here all the way from New York for this event.”
Shirk is also the author of And Your Daughters Shall Prophesy: Stories from the Byways of American Women and Religion, named an NPR Best Book of 2017.
Her essays have appeared in The Atlantic and Atlas Obscura, among other publications. She teaches in Pratt Institute’s BFA creative writing program and lives at the Mutual Aid Society in the Catskill Mountains.
For more information about Ars Poetica and past and future events, please visit https://www.eou.edu/mfa/visiting-writers/. For a cover image, author photo, and event flyer related to Adrian Shirk’s visit, please see this basic press kit.
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