For the third year running, FDU’s own Words and Music Festival (Wamfest) continues with even bigger and better artists.
One major upcoming event will be a discussion and performance featuring Robert Pinsky, John Wesley Harding and New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen.
Specific dates and details for the Springsteen/Pinsky event have not yet been announced. With the exception of that event, all Wamfest events are open to all students and the public, said David Daniel, director of FDU’s creative writing program and creator of Wamfest.
“We just don’t have the capacity to handle that with Bruce, as you can imagine,” Daniel said.
The first Wamfest event, “Fiction Fest,” is set for next week. On April 6, it will feature Thomas E. Kennedy, and on April 7, Peter Carey and Wesley Stace.
“The people who’ve come and are coming are exactly the people I had in mind to begin with, which is an amazing blessing,” Daniel said.
“In most cases, they are groundbreaking, radical thinkers and artists – people who have brought something very special into the world, usually fighting for those who are dispossessed or overlooked in our culture,” he said.
Over the years, the festival has grown and expanded beyond Daniel’s “wildest dreams.”
“At first, I thought the focus would be on just poetry and songwriting, but that quickly expanded to include fiction writers, critics and journalists, filmmakers and actors,” he said.
While the first official Wamfest event was two years ago, Daniel has wanted to create something like it for a long time.
“I first had the idea when I was driving back from New Jersey to Cambridge four years ago,” Daniel said. “The name came and the whole concept, as a kind of epiphany. I immediately and somewhat illegally, since I was driving, called two of my best friends – one a poet and the other a songwriter – and told them about it, and when they reacted enthusiastically, I knew I was on to something.”
Since then, Wamfest has hosted numerous events, including one last year that featured Rosanne Cash.
“We have had several of the world’s greatest living artists come to campus to talk with students and perform in an intimate setting,” Daniel said. “And they’re not doing it for money […] because they believe in the vision of Wamfest and in the great community that’s at FDU.”
For example, he mentioned that Cash said Wamfest was her favorite event of last year because the students were so wonderful and she felt inspired by them.
With the positive feedback, as well as help and support from all of his colleagues, Daniel believes FDU has been able to establish a truly wonderful program.
“When I was first hired by FDU to direct the new creative writing program, I wanted to make it the best in the country,” Daniel said.
“I really wanted to bring something unique to the students – something they could really be proud of – to give them a chance to be around these people, to get to know them a little, and to provide models for them.”
While Wamfest originated at FDU, it has been expanding to other institutions, including the Academy of American Poets, the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Brookdale Community College, according to Daniel.
Upcoming events for this year’s Wamfest include a comedy program on May 4 featuring Eugene Mirman (“Flight of the Conchords”), Michael Showalter (MTV’s “The State” and “Michael and Michael Have Issues”), Leo Allen (“Comedy Central Presents” and former “Saturday Night Live” writer), and Kumail Nanjiani (“Colbert Report” and “The Late Show with David Letterman”).
The following day, there will be a performance and discussion featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon with John Wesley Harding, who is the Wamfest Artist in Residence, Daniel said.
The success of Wamfest so far couldn’t make Daniel happier. For the future, however, he said he wants to see more student awareness and involvement in the events.
“So far, it’s mostly been me dreaming things up, but the idea is that this becomes something where the students’ visions become more central to it,” he said. “I’m old and out of touch, you know, and I want the students to know, absolutely and primarily, this is for them. Also, I’d like to see Wamfest put FDU at the very center of the national arts and education scenes – and I’m very proud to say that we’re well on our way.”