Sandwiched between a pair of Pulitzer Prize winners and a ``wild-card'' night of poetry games, Bumbershoot's literary arts program this year promises to be bigger, looser and more eclectic than ever.
Featuring a dozen ``national'' writers - including the 1990 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, Oscar Hijuelos, and 1969 winner N. Scott Momaday, as well as novelists Tom Robbins and John Barth, the 1973 National Book Award winner - Bumbershoot's literary offerings at Seattle Center will range from formal readings and panel discussions to poetry performances that combine words with dance, computers and a wheel fashioned from 100 blocks of ice.
As an ongoing backdrop - from noon to 7 p.m. Friday through Labor Day - an expanded Bookfair in the former Seattle Art Museum Pavilion will exhibit the work of nearly 80 small presses, most from the Northwest but some from as far afield as Minnesota, New York and England. And once again, this literary festival-within-a-festival should demonstrate the ethnic diversity that has energized contemporary American writing in recent years.
``This year there's another very strong multicultural theme,'' says Judith Roche, the Seattle poet who is coordinating Bumbershoot's literary arts program for the fifth consecutive year. ``Last year we tried for it; this year it just kind of happened.''
Underscoring that is Friday's opening-night lineup, onstage at the Opera House beginning at 7 p.m. The readers will include Hijuelos, a New York writer whose prize-winning novel, ``The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love,'' is a steamy and transcendent brew of Cuban-American culture, and Momaday, a Native American writer whose Kiowa roots are a guiding force in his recent novel, ``The Ancient Child,'' as well as his Pulitzer winner, ``House Made of Dawn.''
Also on the program are Jayne Cortez, an African-American poetry performer whose work has a strong political edge, and Philippine-born Jessica Hagedorn, a New York performance artist whose first novel, ``Dogeaters,'' received considerable praise earlier this year. She will perform with Julian Priester, a Seattle-based jazz trombonist who teaches at Cornish College of the Arts.
Those national artists will share the stage with four others - Lucia Maria Perillo, Carlos Reyes, Christina Pacosz and Gail Tremblay - who are among the 18 regional writers chosen this year by Red Sky Poetry Theater, a Seattle poets' collective, or by various judging panels appointed by Roche.
In past Bumbershoots, some of the liveliest exchanges have been
the Writers Forum panel discussions; this year should be no exception. Charles Johnson, the University of Washington professor whose third novel, ``Middle Passage,'' was published recently, will moderate ``Redefining the Mainstream,'' from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday in the Bagley Wright Theater. Hijuelos, Barth, Momaday, Cortez and Hagedorn will be joined by novelist J.J. Phillips in discussing the impact of new aesthetics and world views on ``mainstream'' literature.
From 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 3 in Intiman Playhouse, Seattle poet Stephen Thomas will moderate ``The Artist and World Change,'' a discussion featuring Robbins, the popular Seattle- and La Conner-based writer whose fifth novel, ``Skinny Legs and All,'' was published last spring; performance poet Anne Waldman, who is co-director of the Naropa Institute's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics; and two winners of this year's Western States Book Awards, Alaskan poet John Haines and Colorado nature essayist Bruce Berger.
Roche said she made a special effort to expand the Bookfair, which in the past has featured 50 to 60 small presses. There will be 79 exhibitors this year, from poetry publishers such as Port Townsend's Copper Canyon Press to the Seattle adult-comics publisher, Fantagraphics Books.
``The Bookfair has been moved (to the Pavilion), and it has been fully programmed, including its own panel discussions about publishing,'' said Roche.
Already available in local bookstores is ERGO!, Bumbershoot's fifth annual literary magazine. Roche, who edited the handsome paperback - which features a Fay Jones painting on the cover, eschewed articles and reviews this year in favor of ``straight poetry and prose'' from each of the festival's national and regional writers.
Other highlights of Bumbershoot's literary-arts program include:
-- ``Intrusions in Ice: Building the Ice Wheel'': a performance in which writer Marilyn Stablein will arrange 10-pound ice blocks into a three-dimensional wheel, interspersed with recitations from her book, ``Intrusions in Ice,'' and musical accompaniment by Kenny Mandell; 3 p.m., Saturday, in the Classical Courtyard, outside the Bookfair Pavilion.
-- Readings headlined by John Barth, with regional writers Linda Drand, Margit Moore, Jim Maloney and Alice Ray; 8 p.m., Saturday, Bagley Wright Theater.
-- Readings by the winners of the 1990 book awards of the Western States Arts Foundation, next Sunday, Bookfair Pavilion: Hispanic novelist Aristeo Brito, fiction winner for ``The Devil in Texas/El diablo en Texas,'' 1 to 1:45 p.m.; Bruce Berger, creative nonfiction winner for ``The Telling Distance: Conversations With the American Desert,'' 1:45 to 2:30 p.m.; and John Haines, winner for lifetime achievement in poetry and author of ``New Poems: 1980-88,'' 2:30 to 3:15 p.m.
-- ``Word in Body'': a word-and-movement performance by poet Dick Bakken and dancer Caryl Clement; 5 p.m., next Sunday, Intiman Playhouse.
-- ``Hung Drawn & Quartered'': performance poet Sheri-D Wilson presents an erotic multi-media epic poem; 5:30 p.m., next Sunday, Intiman Playhouse.
-- ``Do Not Disturb Any Further'': a talk-and-art performance by cartoonist John Callahan, who is paraplegic; 6 p.m., next Sunday, Intiman Playhouse.
-- Readings headlined by Anne Waldman, with regional writers D.J. Hamilton, Alison Murchie, Paula Jones Gardiner, Sandy Deery and Jody Aliesan; 8 p.m., next Sunday, Intiman Playhouse.
-- Readings headlined by Tom Robbins, with regional writers Patrick McCabe, Brenda Riches, Arthur Ginsberg, Kris Beaver and Marian Michener; 8 p.m. Sept. 3, Intiman Playhouse.
-- Publishing panel discussions, 4:45 to 6 p.m., daily, Bookfair Pavilion: ``Book Publishing in the Northwest'' (Friday); ``Public Funding and the Literary Arts'' (Saturday); ``Publishing in the West'' (next Sunday); and ``From Our House to Yours: Getting Small Press Books from Publisher to Reader'' (Sept. 3).
-- Wild-card Poetry: Keith Jefferson will emcee three poetry games: ``Chainlink Poetry,'' ``Improv with Found Object'' and the audience-participatory ``Cheers and Curses''; 10 p.m. to midnight Sept. 3, Intiman Playhouse.