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Poetry and Literature

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As part of the Poetry and Literature Center’s 75th Anniversary, this new series features emerging and established literary writers in a dynamic and thought-provoking conversation.

Dorothea Lasky

“The Notion of Life and Art as Constant Performance”: An Interview with Dorothea Lasky

Dorothea Lasky is the author of four books of poetry, most recently ROME (W.W. Norton/Liveright, 2014), as well as Thunderbird, Black Life, AWE, all out from Wave Books. She is the co-editor of Open the Door: How to Excite Young People About Poetry (McSweeney’s, 2013) and several chapbooks, including Poetry is Not a Project (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010). Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of Poetry at Columbia University’s School of the Arts, co-directs Columbia Artist/Teachers, and lives in New York City.

Read Dorothea Lasky's interview

Jesse Lee Kercheval

“Between Now and Already So”: Translating Uruguay's Idea Vilariño

Jesse Lee Kercheval is the author of the poetry collections Cinema Muto, Dog Angel, and the bilingual poetry collection Extranjera/ Stranger.  Her translations include Invisible Bridge/ El puente invisible: Selected Poems of Circe Maia. She is also the editor of América invertida: An Anthology of Emerging Uruguayan Poets which is forthcoming from the University of New Mexico Press. She is the Zona Gale Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin. Photo of Jesse Lee Kercheval by Dan Fuller.

Read Jesse Lee Kercheval's interview

Juan Gabriel Vásquez

“Novels Arise Out of the Shortcomings of History”: An Interview with Juan Gabriel Vásquez

Juan Gabriel Vásquez was born in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1973. He is the author of seven novels, including Los informantes (The Informers), Historia secreta de Costaguana (The Secret History of Costaguana), El ruido de las cosas al caer (The Sound of Things Falling), and Las reputaciones (Reputations), which will come out in English in September of 2016. He has also written short stories, essays, a biography, and a weekly column for the Colombian newspaper, El Espectador. His books have been published in twenty-seven languages. Vasquez’s honors include the Alfaguara Novel Prize in Spain, the English PEN award, the International Dublin Award, the Prix Roger Caillois in France, and the Royal Academy Prize in Spain. He has translated major literary works into Spanish, including some by John Dos Passos, E.M. Forster and Victor Hugo. He lived in France, Belgium, and Spain for 16 years before returning to Bogotá, where he currently resides. His most recent novel, La forma de las ruinas, was published in 2015.

Read Juan Gabriel Vásquez's interview

Dawn Lundy Martin

“Why Pretend That We Speak a False Language?”: An Interview with Dawn Lundy Martin

Dawn Lundy Martin, essayist, poet, and multimedia artist, is author of three books of poetry: A Gathering of Matter / A Matter of Gathering (2007), winner of the Cave Canem Prize; Discipline (2011), winner of the Nightboat Books Poetry Prize; and, in 2015, Life in a Box is a Pretty Life. She also wrote the libretto for a video installation opera, "Good Stock on the Dimension Floor." She is co-editor of the essay collection The Fire This Time: Young Activists and the New Feminism (2004) and co-founder of the Third Wave Foundation and the Black Took Collective. The recipient of two poetry grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the 2008 Academy of American Arts and Sciences May Sarton Prize for Poetry, Martin he is Associate Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh. Photo of Dawn Lundy Martin by Max Freeman.

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Heather Christle

“A Seemingly Impossible Combination of Animal and Telephone”: An Interview with Heather Christle

Heather Christle is the author of four books of poetry, including The Difficult Farm (2009); The Trees The Trees (2011), winner of the Believer Poetry Award; What Is Amazing (2012); and, most recently, Heliopause (2015). Her work has appeared in such journals and magazines as Poetry, The New Yorker, Boston Review, and Octopus. Christle has taught at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Sarah Lawrence College, and Emory, where she was a Creative Writing Fellow. She currently lives in Yellow Springs, OH.

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Wally Lamb

“Coming to Terms with the Family You Were Given and Finding the Family You Need”: An Interview with Wally Lamb

Wally Lamb is the author of four New York Times best-selling novels: Wishin’ and Hopin’, The Hour I First Believed, I Know This Much is True, and She’s Come Undone and was twice selected for Oprah’s Book Club. His most recent novel is We Are Water.Lamb also edited Couldn’t Keep It to Myself and I’ll Fly Away, two volumes of essays from students in his writing workshop at York Correctional Institution, a women’s prison in Connecticut, where he has been a volunteer facilitator for the past 14 years. He has won numerous awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts grant and the Connecticut Center for the Book’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Karen An-hwei Lee

“A Votive Flame”: An Interview with Karen An-hwei Lee

Karen An-hwei Lee is the author of Phyla of Joy (Tupelo 2012), Ardor (Tupelo 2008), and In Medias Res (Sarabande 2004), winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize for Poetry and the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. Lee also wrote two chapbooks, God’s One Hundred Promises (Swan Scythe 2002) and What the Sea Earns for a Living (Quaci 2014). Her poetry was honored by a Prairie Schooner Glenna Luschei Award. A book of literary criticism, Anglophone Literatures in the Asian Diaspora: Literary Transnationalism and Translingual Migrations (Cambria 2013), appears in the Cambria Sinophone World Series. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, she serves as Professor of English and Chair at a liberal arts college in greater Los Angeles.

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Anne McLean

“We’re Rewriting a Work of Art”: An Interview with Anne McLean

Anne McLean studied history in London, Ontario and literary translation in London, England. After a decade and a half in the UK, she now lives in Toronto, where she translates Latin American and Spanish novels, short stories, memoirs and other writings by many authors including Héctor Abad, Isabel Allende, Julio Cortázar, Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, and Enrique Vila-Matas. In 2004, the first of five books she’s translated by Javier Cercas, Soldiers of Salamis, was awarded both the Premio Valle Inclán and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. In 2009, two of her translations of Colombian novels – The Informers by Juan Gabriel Vásquez and The Armies by Evelio Rosero – were short-listed for the latter prize, which Rosero’s book went on to win. She was awarded the Cruz de Oficial of the Order of Civil Merit in 2012 in recognition of her contribution to making Spanish literature known to a wider public. In June 2014, her translation of The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

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Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon

“Room Enough to Say What I Mean”: An Interview with Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon is the author of Open Interval, a 2009 National Book Award finalist, and Black Swan, winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, as well as Poems in Conversation and a Conversation, a chapbook in collaboration with Elizabeth Alexander. Her work has appeared in such journals as African American Review, Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, Gulf Coast, and Shenandoah, and in the anthologies Bum Rush the Page, Role Call, Common Wealth, Gathering Ground, and The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South. She is currently at work on a third collection, The Coal Tar Colors.

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Terrance Hayes

“Of Headspace and Fire”: An Interview with Terrance Hayes

Terrance Hayes is the author of four collections of poetry, including Lighthead (2010), winner of the 2010 National Book Award for Poetry. His many honors include a Whiting Writers Award, a Pushcart Prize, three Best American Poetry selections, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and the Guggenheim Foundation. Born in Columbia, South Carolina, Hayes is a professor of Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania and lives in Pittsburgh with his family.

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Cynthia Levinson

Author Cynthia Levinson on "The 1963 Birmingham Children's March"

Cynthia Y. Levinson is the author of several articles and short fiction pieces for young readers.  We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March is her first nonfiction book for young readers and has received many awards including the IRA Young Adult Nonfiction Award, a Parents' Choice Gold Medal, and was selected as an American Library Association Notable Book. It was also included in the children's bibliography for the "A Day Like No Other: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington" exhibit of the Library of Congress (8/28/13-3/1/14).  Levinsongraduated with her B.A. from Wellesley College and her M.A. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  Her nonfiction works for young people have been published in several children’s magazines, including “AppleSeeds,” “Calliope,” and “Cobblestone.”  Although she specializes in nonfiction, her short fiction has also been accepted by acclaimed children’s magazines and readers.  In 2002 Levinson’s picture book manuscript, “Mr. Bellow Lost His Cello,” won Byline Magazine’s national picture book competition. 

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Paisley Rekdel

“Of Perspective and Perception”: An Interview with Paisley Rekdal

Paisley Rekdal is the author of four books of poetry, including Animal Eye, The Invention of the Kaleidoscope, Six Girls Without Pants, and A Crash of Rhinos. She is also the author of a book of essays, The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee, and the hybrid memoir Intimate. Her honors include fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Fulbright Fellowship, and her poems have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, American Poetry Review, and Poetry. She is currently a Professor of English at the University of Utah. Photo credit: Tommy Chandler.

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Karen Russell

Karen Russell on the Fantastic World of Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Karen Russell is the author of two short story collections, Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories and St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, and one novel, Swamplandia!. She has been chosen by the National Book Award’s as one of 5 Under 35 and The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 list, and Granta’s Best Young American Novelists. She lives in New York City and is currently writer-in-residence at Bard College. Photo by Michael Lionstar.

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Araceles Girmay

“How do you go about finding the heart?”: Aracelis Girmay on Poetry, Discovery, and Grief

Aracelis Girmay is the author of two collections of poetry including Kingdom Animalia and Teeth, as well as the collage-based picture book, changing, changing. Her honors include the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award and a fellowship from Cave Canem. She has taught youth poetry workshops with Community~Word and DreamYard, and she currently teaches poetry at Hampshire College and in Drew University's low-residency MFA program.

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Justin Torres

“The Way You Tell the Story”: Justin Torres on Writing

Justin Torres’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, Glimmer Train and other publications. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a recipient of the Rolón United States Artist Fellowship in Literature and the Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University. He has worked as a farmhand, a dog-walker, a creative writing teacher and a bookseller. His debut novel We the Animals is a semiautobiographical story of three brothers, and was released in 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Photo by Gregory Crowley.

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Walt Whitman

Poet Joshua Beckman on Walt Whitman and Influence

Joshua Beckman was born in New Haven, Connecticut. He is the author of ten books of poetry, three books of poems in translation, and two collaborative works with Mathew Rohrer. Beckman serves as an editor for Wave Press. His many honors include a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts as well as a Pushcart Prize. His most recent work Porch Light, released in 2012, is a limited edition collaboration with Jon Beacham published by The Brother in Elysium Letterpress.

Read Beckman's essay and interview