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Villanova Literary Festival Speaker Donika Kelly Visits Campus

By Lauren Picard 

Photo courtesy of Lauren Picard.

This past Thursday, poet Donika Kelly read her work to a captivated audience in Falvey Library Speakers’ Corner as part of the 25th Annual Villanova Literary Festival 

After being introduced by two Villanova students, Kelly took to the podium, where her warm and lighthearted presence immediately set the audience at ease. Before diving headfirst into the first poem from her published book, Bestiary, Kelly asked the audience if they knew what a Centaur was. After some chuckles and nods from the audience, Kelly began reading, “Love Poem: Centaur”. Her use of repetition and visual language in the poem not only brought the audience into the mystical land in which a Centaur might truly exist, but also personified the thoughts of a Centaur in love: “Nothing approaches a field like me. Hard / gallop, hard chest—hooves and mane and flicking / tail… Love, / I pound the earth for you. I pound the earth” (Kelly, p. 41). Love and legendary creatures fill the pages of Bestiary, and it was a pleasure to have Kelly take us on a tour. 

Kelly also read from her most recently published book of poetry, The Renunciations, which, as described by the students who introduced her, asks: can experiences be unremembered, and feelings unfelt? In both The Renunciations and Bestiary, Kelly explores love in its many different forms (even through certain poems dedicated to her partner which she fondly describes as “macaroni art”), and engages readers with her vivid language and storytelling.  

The Q&A session following her readings offered the audience a chance to learn more about Kelly’s writing and editing process, to which she had a sundry of candid advice for the aspiring poets in the audience. After the event’s conclusion, Kelly stayed behind to sign books and talk more with audience members.  

Kelly’s was the third event of the Villanova Literary Festival, and both of her books, Bestiary and The Renunciations are available through Falvey Library. The fourth and final Lit Fest event is coming up on Tues., April 18 at 7pm in Falvey Library Speakers’ Corner, and will feature Steph Cha, the author of Your House Will Pay. We hope to see you there!

Lauren Picard ’23 CLAS, is Communication & Marketing Assistant at Falvey Library.


Dig Deeper: Donika Kelly

By Julia Wagner

Photo courtesy of

Villanova University’s 2023 Literary Festival will be featuring poet Donika Kelly, author of The Renunciations (Graywolf) and Bestiary (Graywolf), for a reading and talk on Thursday, March 30, at 7 p.m. in Falvey Library’s Speakers’ Corner. Kelly was born in Los Angeles, Calif., and earned an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin and a PhD in English from Vanderbilt University. She currently resides in Iowa City with her wife.

The Renunciations is a winner of the Anisfield-Wolf book award in poetry, and Bestiary is a winner of the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry, and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Kelly’s poems have been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The Paris Review. She is a Cave Canem graduate fellow and member of the collective Poets at the End of the World. She has also received a Lannan Residency Fellowship and a summer workshop fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center. Her work has been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Publishing Triangle Awards, the Lambda Literary Awards, and longlisted for the National Book Award.

This ACS-approved event—co-sponsored by the English Department, the Creative Writing Program, the Honors Program, Africana Studies, Global Interdisciplinary Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, the Center for Irish Studies, and Falvey Library—is free and open to the public.

Dig deeper and explore the links below for more on Kelly’s work:

Julia Wagner ‘26 CLAS is a Communication major from New Hampshire (Go Patriots!). She works as a Communication & Marketing Assistant at Falvey Library.

“I am personally so excited that The Renunciations is part of my Moderns curriculum, and I can’t wait to hear Kelly speak!”




The 2023 Lit Fest Begins Tonight!

Lit Festival 2023 Lineup

Faculty, staff, students, and friends are invited to join us for the 2023 Literary Festival! Through this annual series, we’ve had the privilege of welcoming major poets and fiction writers on campus to give readings and meet with students.

The Literary Festival officially kicks off tonight with a reading by the Charles A. Heimbold Jr. Chair for Irish Studies, Mary O’Donoghue, an award-winning poet, fiction writer, editor, and translator. A reception will start at 6 p.m. in the Presidents’ Lounge in Connelly Center prior to the 7 p.m. reading! In addition, we are delighted that the new Ambassador of Ireland Geraldine Byrne Nason will personally congratulate our 2023 Heimbold Chair, Mary O’Donoghue, at 6:45 p.m.

See the full line-up of Literary Festival speakers, below.

Feb. 23: Mary O’Donoghue
The President’s Lounge, Connelly Center

March 16: Tsering Lama
Speakers’ Corner, Falvey Library

March 30: Donika Kelly
Speakers’ Corner, Falvey Library

April 18: Steph Cha,
Speakers’ Corner, Falvey Library

All events take place at 7 p.m. and are ACS-approved!

You can learn more about the 2023 Lit Fest speakers and enjoy recordings of past events here.




Last Modified: February 23, 2023

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