January 24, 2020 Ben Lerner
Kansas native Ben Lerner, listed as one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists, penned three collections of poetry before turning to fiction. While at the Kansas City Public Library, Lerner, who often weaves personal experiences into his writing, reads from his third novel, The Topeka School, a finalist for the 2019 National Book Critics Circle Award.
January 31, 2020 Tyehimba Jess
Tyehimba Jess, winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry reads from his multi-award winning Olio at the Kansas City Public Library, during his 2019 visit to the Unesco Creative City of Music. The book delves into the voices of African American creatives in the 19th and early 20th century, allowing them to engage with each other in ways not possible in history. Jess is also interviewed by the Poet Laureate of Kansas City's 18th and Vine Jazz District, Glenn North. Listen to this conversation about poetic form, music and the legacy of African American poetry and history with Tyehimba Jess, who is also the author of Leadbelly.
January 17, 2020 Glenn North
Glenn North, the inaugural Poet Laureate of the 18th and Vine Historic Jazz District, shares passages from his 2015 book City of Song (re-released in 2019 by Spartan Press). Excerpted from the Kansas City Public Library's 2017 program, To Make a Poet Black and Bid Him Sing, the Cave Canem fellow, community organizer, and winner of the Charlotte Street Foundation's Generative Performing Artist Award discusses his involvement in youth poetry workshops and shares his experience as a black poet. North also talks about his collaboration with jazz musician Bobby Watson to create the musical spoken word CD, Check Cashing Day.
January 10, 2020 Russell Banks
Acclaimed novelist, retired Princeton professor and mountain climber, Russell Banks discusses his recent memoir, Voyager:Travel Writings. Interviewed by his former student and now fellow novelist, Whitney Terrell, Banks reveals how his childhood traumas played into his relationships in front of an audience at a Literacy Kansas City event. He also talks about his time spent traveling to places like Haiti and Jamaica, and how white America has overlooked and belittled the Native and minority populations of the country, and how that plays into his writing. His books, The Sweet Hereafter and Affliction were adapted into award-winning films. Listen to additional programs with Russell Banks from 1986 and 1999 in our audio archives.
January 3, 2020 Kathryn Nuernberger
Poet and essayist Kathryn Nuernberger, the former editor of Pleiades Press at the University of Central Missouri, now lives and teaches in Minnesota. She discusses how she once shied away from being a "woman writer" and why she now embraces it, as she reads from her 2017 essay collection, Brief Interviews with the Romantic Past, and shares poetry from her earlier books, Rag and Bone and The End of Pink, as well as from her forthcoming collection, Rue. An earlier 2018 interview with Kathryn Nuernberger is also available in our audio archives.
December 27, 2019 Cheers to All the Years
Before roaring into the 2020s, we look back at our decades of publishing the National Magazine Award-winning New Letters, the American Book Award-winning BkMk (BookMark) Press, and the radio show, New Letters on the Air. Our shared mission to discover, publish, and promote the best new writing, wherever it may be found, is apparent in our audio archives, that go back to 1977. Robert Stewart, Ben Furnish and Angela Elam share stories of collaboration with clips from Jericho Brown, Michael Horovitz, Dan Jaffe, Mariko Nagai, Richard Wilbur, Billy Collins, and Christie Hodgen. Listen as we explore our literary operation, located in the University House on the UMKC campus.
December 20, 2019 December Festivals
In this special anthology, we feature literature and commentary about the December holiday season from our rich archives. The late Rabbi Gerald Kane discusses the origins of Hanukkah, which inspired our recording of the now late Grace Paley, reading her widely anthologized short story, "The Loudest Voice." Dr. Maulana Karenga talks about why he founded Kwanzaa in 1966 and the importance of the seven principles that are observed during the week-long celebration. Kansas City storyteller Milton Gray, who created a Kwanzaa Principles program for the Kansas City Museum, shares a story inspired by the holiday. Novelist Priscilla Cogan provides a unique perspective on Christmas with her Native American character from her book Winona’s Web, the first in her trilogy about the character.
December 13, 2019 Randall Freisinger
A decades-long resident of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Randall Freisinger gives insight into the often wintery world of his surroundings. Now retired from teaching, he shares poetry from his 2019 book, Windthrow and Salvage, which contains the 2007 New Letters magazine Reader's Choice Award-winning poem "Cursing the Deaf." In the second part of this interview, Freisinger also shares the story of raising his late best friend's sons and reads from his earlier collection, Nostalgia's Thread: Ten Poems on Norman Rockwell Paintings, which examines a more somber view of Rockwell's America. The first part of this interview with Randall Freisinger is available in our audio archives.
December 6, 2019 Molly Peacock
American-Canadian essayist, poet and biographer Molly Peacock gives an in-depth look into her latest work, The Analyst, her 2017 poetry collection that traces her decades-long relationship with her psychologist, who suffered a stroke. Full of insightful commentary on the nature of personal growth, facing hardships and how relationships change over time, Peacock shares her reflections on art, love and friendship. She also talks about her work with sonnets and reads a very early poem published in New Letters. Previous shows with Molly Peacock from 1981, 1997, and 1999 are available in our audio archives. She was interviewed while in Kansas City for her 2019 presentation at the Kansas City Public Library.
November 29, 2019 Bojan Louis
A member of the Navajo Nation, Bojan Louis is a poet, fiction writer, essayist and author of the 2018 American Book Award-winning poetry collection Currents, published by BkMk press. Louis, who worked for years as an electrician and formerly served as poetry editor for RED INK: An International Journal of Indigenous Literature, Arts, and Humanities, discusses how his previous career and the culture and environment of the Navajo people have influenced his writing and also talks about the three languages he's brought into his poetry--Dine, English, and Spanish.
November 22, 2019 Stewart O'Nan
Though he's now the author of 17 novels and served as editor for The Vietnam Reader of Fiction and Nonfiction on the War, Stewart O'Nan didn't begin his career as a writer. He started out as a half-hearted engineer until advice from his wife led him writing books as varied as the best-selling novel, Snow Angels (now a film) to the non-fiction book co-written with Stephen King called Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season. While onstage at the Kansas City Public Library as UMKC's 2017 Cockefair Chair Writer-in-Residence, O'Nan discusses how he gave up engineering for the writing life and reads from his novel, West of Sunset, in part one of this conversation.
November 15, 2019 Meg Wolitzer
New York Times Bestselling author Meg Wolitzer reads from her most recent novel, The Female Persuasion, and discusses its themes of feminism and the tendency to idealize our mentors. Her work has long centered on the experiences of women, with three of her books having been adapted for film, including The Wife. Wolitzer reflects on her career, and her mother--novelist and poet Hilma Wolitzer, in a conversation with KCUR's Anne Kniggendorf.
Kansas City Literary Events
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