March 23, 2018 Rachel Hall
Published in various anthologies and literary magazines, including New Letters as the Fiction Prize winner of 2004, Rachel Hall discusses her first book, a collection of interconnected short stories called Heirlooms. Chosen by Marge Piercy as the 2015 winner of the G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction from BkMk Press, it is based on her own family’s history and wartime papers and photos. The book follows a Jewish family through the French Resistance and the Holocaust, tracing their lives from Palestine, to France, and eventually to Missouri in the United States. While at the National Archives at Kansas City, Hall reads from this collection and reveals why she chose to write this as fiction rather than memoir. Click here to view the photos Rachel Hall discussed during this interview.
March 16, 2018 Monica Youn
A lawyer-turned-poet, Monica Youn has written three books of poetry, and now teaches creative writing in New York. Twice a finalist for the National Book Award, she reveals why she felt the need to leave the legal field for creative writing after her second poetry book. She also discusses how historical views on a woman's place in society and her own struggles with infertility helped shape her third book, Blackacre, winner of the 2017 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America.
March 9, 2018 Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill
Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill was born in the UK, but was sent to live with her aunt in Ireland at age five. Now considered one of the country's leading poets writing all in Irish, she has won numerous awards for her books of poetry and essays, with her works translated into English by the likes of Paul Muldoon. Her 2017 book, Entry Permitted, features her lectures as the Ireland Chair of Poetry. She reads from her poetry books The Fifty Minute Mermaid and The Water Horse and her Selected Essays, and discusses her fight to gain recognition in her early career and the influence of Irish lore and landscape on her writing.
March 2, 2018 The Augurs: Women of an Age
In ancient Rome, an Augur was thought to be a herald or one who could interpret the natural signs as an indication of divine approval or disapproval of proposed actions. This public poetry reading was recorded in Washington D.C. during the 2017 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference, under the auspices of the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics and Writers at The Catholic University of America. It features a group of women poets, most over the age of 60, sharing their work and views on our society. Eleanor Wilner, Alice Friman, Alicia Ostriker, the late Michelle Boisseau, Terese Svoboda, Kate Daniels, Robin Becker, and Rosellen Brown read their award-winning poetry that is both poignant and political in The Augurs: Women of an Age.
February 23, 2018 James Alan McPherson: Past American Voice
The late essayist and short story writer James Alan McPherson (1943-2016) was the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. In this 1991 archive interview with Rebekah Presson, he talks about his life as a writer, father, teacher, and more. Born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, McPherson graduated in History and English from Atlanta's Morris Brown College, and then received his Harvard Law Degree in 1968, before pursuing his M.F.A. at the Iowa Writer's Workshop. He later became one of the school's most beloved professors, teaching there until his retirement in 2014. McPherson's writing often portrayed race, family, and class issues, as in his story "A Loaf of Bread" from his 1977 Pulitzer Prize-winning collection Elbow Room, read in this program by Walter Coppage. The late writer will be honored at the 2018 AWP conference, where his daughter, Rachel McPherson, whom he talks about in this interview, will be present.
February 16, 2018 Black Women Writers in History
We go to the archives to revisit a program that examines important African-American writers, beginning with the 18th century's Phillis Wheatley and concluding with former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove. This show also features the late Margaret Walker and Gwendolyn Brooks, as well as recordings from the Folkways collection called Black American History in Ballad, Song, and Prose.
February 9, 2018 Marcus Wicker
Michigan native Marcus Wicker talks about how his poetry has progressed since his early days with poetry slams and reads from the 2011 National Poetry Series winning collection, Maybe the Saddest Thing, a finalist for the NAACP Image Award for Poetry. He reveals why music and pop culture subject matter, ranging from Flavor Flav to Bruce Lee, appear so much in this first book. He also shares the genesis for his second book, Silencer--another NAACP poetry finalist and winner of the 2018 Arnold Adoff Poetry Award-- which mixes his love of music with stories of racism and violence. A two-time Cave Canem fellow, the poetry editor of Southern Indiana Review now teaches at the University of Memphis, and talks about what he learns from reading other poets. This program also contains musical segments by his brother, the hip hop producer, Flaw da God.
February 2, 2018 Natasha Trethewey
The 19th U.S. Poet Laureate (2012-14), Natasha Trethewey talks about the role's effect on her work and her life as a literary citizen, and shares some of the projects she took on afterwards, including her year's work selecting poetry for The New York Times. In this second half of a conversation in front of an audience at the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas, the then Mississippi Poet Laureate reads more from her recent book, Thrall, and gives fresh perspectives on her previous books, including the theatre installation of her Pulitzer Prize winning book, Native Guard (which was revived in 2018 at the Atlanta History Center). This program also interweaves segments that were not included in a 2008 program with Natasha Trethewey, including readings from her second book, Bellocq's Ophelia. The first part of this interview with Natasha Trethewey is also available in our audio archives.
January 26, 2018 Kenneth Irby: Past American Voice
The late poet Kenneth Irby (1936-2015) was born in Texas and raised in southeast Kansas. A history graduate of K.U., he got his graduate degree from Harvard before serving in the U.S. Army. Afterwards, he graduated from Berkeley, and became associated with the Bay Area Renaissance Poets and the radical Language Poets. He shares stories with former Kansas Poet Laureate, Denise Low, about his relationship with Black Mountain poets—Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, and Ed Dorn—and his life in letters, which were acquired by the University of Kansas Library in 2017. Hear the Past American Voice of Kenneth Irby as he reads from his last book, The Intent On: Collected Poems 1962-2006, winner of the 2010 Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. Read the full interview in the February 2018 issue of The Writer's Chronicle.
January 19, 2018 Naomi Shihab Nye
In part one of this conversation, Arab-American poet Naomi Shihab Nye, whose numerous books of poetry, essays and stories have delighted children and adults alike, reads from her book, Tender Spot, including her poem "Famous" that was turned into a picture book in 2015. She also talks about her award-winning novel, The Turtle of Oman, that deals with a child's attachment to place, and reads poetry from Honeybee and her 2018 collection, Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners.
January 12, 2018 Jericho Brown
Guggenheim fellow Jericho Brown describes the joy he finds in writing poetry and how his work helps him examine his world as a gay black man. He talks about some of his poetic mentors—from Emily Dickinson to Alice Walker—and the lessons he strives to pass along to his students at Emory University. He also reveals the story behind changing his name and discusses his childhood in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he was raised by fundamental Christians. Brown reads from his second collection, The New Testament, winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, as well as his earlier American Book Award winner, Please.
Kansas City Literary Events