January 18, 2019 Patricia Smith
Patricia Smith is the author of seven poetry books and a four-time National Poetry Slam Champion, the most successful poet in the competition's history. In part one of this conversation, she reads from her recent book, Incendiary Art, 2018 winner of an NAACP Image Award and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and discusses the why she chose to write so much about the late Emmett Till, who was killed the year of her birth.
January 11, 2019 Hadara Bar-Nadav & Kathryn Nuernberger
In this interview at the Plaza branch of the Kansas City Public Library, poets Hadara Bar-Nadav and Kathryn Nuernberger, who were both chosen as 2017 NEA Literary Fellows, discuss their recent collections along with their origins and influences, and talk about how dreaming affects their poetry. Bar-Nadav, the co-editor of the textbook, Writing Poems, who teaches English and Creative Writing at the University of Missouri–Kansas City, reads poems from Fountain and Furnace and The New Nudity, while Nuernberger, former editor of Pleiades Press at the University of Central Missouri, reads from her James Laughlin Award-winning poetry collection, The End of Pink. Now at the University of Minnesota, Nuernberger will return to Kansas City for a 2019 Midwest Poets Series reading and will talk with us about her recent essay collection, Brief Interviews with the Romantic Past. An earlier 2013 interview with Hadara Bar-Nadav is also available in our Audio Archives.
January 4, 2019 Stephen Corey
A three-time Georgia Author of the Year for poetry, Stephen Corey is the editor of the National Magazine Award-winning, The Georgia Review. He talks about his literary life and reads from his 2017 book, Startled at the Big Sound: Essays Personal, Literary, and Cultural. The husband of a hospice nurse and the father of four girls, he reveals how the title was inspired by one of his two adopted daughters. Corey also discusses his approach to editing and the writing life as he reads poetry from his earlier book, There is No Finished World.
December 28, 2018 Charles Harper Webb
Guggenheim Fellow, licensed psychotherapist, and author of over a dozen poetry books, Charles Harper Webb reads from his 2016 essay collection, A Million MFAs Are Not Enough. The English professor at California State University advocates for more humor and accessibility within the poetry world. He also shares poems from his more recent collection, Brain Camp, and his book of new and selected poems, Shadow Ball, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press, which released his book Sidebend World in fall 2018. A former professional guitar player, he also discusses his love of music, and reveals how baseball and the natural world has helped inspire some of his writing.
December 21, 2018 George Saunders
George Saunders, the renowned short story writer, talks about his debut novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, winner of Britain's Man Booker Prize for best novel written in English in 2017. He discusses his approach to this story, which began two decades before when he read about Abraham Lincoln's grief over the loss of his son, Willie, and how he made visits to the crypt to hold his body. Saunders decided to explore the tumultuous Civil War period through a chorus of ghosts, and talks about the joy he found in using his editing and curating skills to join history with fiction. He also reads from the novel.
December 14, 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. Part two of this interview along with programs with Naomi Shihab Nye from 2003 and 2006 are also available in our audio archives.
December 7, 2018 The Loudest Voice
A holiday favorite, this highly anthologized short story is read by the late author Grace Paley. "The Loudest Voice" is an amusing tale about a little Jewish girl, chosen to play the lead in her school's Christmas pageant, and her family's reactions. Despite the story's popularity, Grace Paley's 1998 reading of it for New Letters on the Air was the first ever recorded.
November 30, 2018 Stewart O'Nan
In the second half of our conversation with Stewart O'Nan, he discusses his study of character and human nature within his writing. The author of 20 plus books, including Emily, Alone and Last Night at the Lobster, O'Nan also talks about some of the challenges he's faced writing fiction and how he draws inspiration from fellow writers such as Flannery O'Connor, Saul Bellow, John Wideman and more. While on stage at the Kansas City Public Library, he reads from his 2016 novel, City of Secrets, and discusses what inspired him to fictionalize this account of the underground resistance and terrorism in Jerusalem after World War II.
November 23, 2018 Margot Livesey
Scottish-born writer Margot Livesey began reading at an early age and later went on to pen a book of short stories and eight novels, and most recently, a book on the craft of writing called The Hidden Machinery: Essays on Writing. In this 2018 presentation at the Kansas City Public Library, Livesey talks about her evolution as a reader and writer, and shares passages from her tenth book that gives insight into not only her writing life, but those of the authors of famous books from Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary to Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse. Shows with Margot Livesey from 2001, 2006, and 2011 are also available in our audio archives.
November 16, 2018 Ellen Bass
Growing up in a Philadelphia apartment above a liquor store, poet Ellen Bass thought her childhood was "the most mundane, pedestrian, unpoetic world you could possibly live in," but after many years and the death of her parents, she finds herself poetically inspired by that time, especially in her two recent books, Like a Beggar and The Human Line. In part one of this conversation, she also talks about being honored by the late U.S. Poet Laureate, Philip Levine in The New Yorker's debut podcast, and gives advice through poetry for when bad things happen. Part two of this conversation along with an anthology program featuring Ellen Bass are also available in our audio archives.
November 9, 2018 Tim O'Brien
Vietnam veteran and National Book Award-winning fiction writer Tim O'Brien discusses his experiences and reads from his now classic short story collection, The Things They Carried, as part of the NEA's Big Read. Originally released in 1990, the book follows a fictional platoon of American soldiers in Vietnam. In this 2017 presentation at the Kansas City Public Library, O'Brien reads from the story "Ambush" and details how he transformed events in his soldier life into his powerful fiction, as he explores how war affects soldiers and families. He also gives some tips as he shares his writing process. Listen to New Letters interviews from 1999 and 2004.
Kansas City Literary Events