June 21, 2019 Russell Banks
Novelist, professor, and mountain climber Russell Banks discusses his life and writing at a Literacy Kansas City event. Interviewed by fellow novelist and his former student Whitney Terrell, Banks discusses his childhood trauma and how its ripple effect played into his relationships. 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. Banks also reveals how these events, and more, have made their way into his writing, including his books, The Sweet Hereafter and Affliction, which have since been adapted into movies.
June 14, 2019 Naomi Shihab Nye
Arab-American writer Naomi Shihab Nye was born in St. Louis and is now a long-time resident of Texas with her husband, photographer Michael Nye. She discusses how her late father has impacted her writing. Aziz Shihab was a journalist who emigrated from Palestine to Missouri, where he met her mother and made the U.S. his home, though he always went back to visit family, including his mother who lived to be 106. In the second part of this interview, Nye reads from Transfer, her book that's dedicated to her father, and reflects on refugees and their stories, after she was the keynote speaker on the theme of immigration at the 2017 National Storytelling Network Conference in Kansas City. Part one of this interview along with programs with Naomi Shihab Nye from 2003 and 2006 are also available in our audio archives.
June 7, 2019 Joaquín Zihuatanejo
Texas-born Joaquín Zihuatanejo is the only poet so far to win both the American Individual World Poetry Slam and the European World Cup of Poetry Slam. Hear his prize-winning "Poem for John" and readings from his sixth collection, Arsonist, published in 2018 after winning the Anhinga-Robert Dana Poetry Prize. He shares how this book came to be written after a Facebook message opened a portal into the life of his deceased father, and reads poetry about cultural archetypes, revealing his outlook on the world to an audience at the Kansas City Public Library.
May 31, 2019 Justin Martin
Justin Martin is the author of several biographies, but his fifth book, Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America's First Bohemians, is his first group biography. It explores a critical four-year period in the life of Walt Whitman and his artistic associates before the Civil War. Citing a lifelong curiosity to understand the real people he writes about and not the mythical figures they become over time, Martin's book also explores the bohemian lifestyle in 1850s New York City, along with some of the well-known artists who frequented Pfaff's Saloon and their influence on the artistic culture of the time.
May 24, 2019 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 excerpt of the 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.
May 17, 2019 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. In part one of this conversation, 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. Part two of this program with Monica Youn is also available in our audio archives.
May 10, 2019 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.
May 3, 2019 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.
April 26, 2019 Mia Leonin and Gustavo Adolfo Aybar
In this public reading at The Writer's Place in Kansas City, poets Mia Leonin and Gustavo Adolfo Aybar celebrate Hispanic island cultures. Aybar, a native of the Dominican Republic, is a Cave Canem Fellow who shares poems from his 2017 debut collection, We Seek Asylum,winner of Willow Books Literature Awards Grand Prize. Leonin, who has explored her Cuban-American heritage in her memoir Havana and Other Missing Fathers, reads from her 2018 collection from BkMk Press called Fable of the Pack-Saddle Child.
April 19, 2019 W.S. Merwin: Past American Voice
We look back on the life of the prolific poet W.S. Merwin, who died in March 2019. In this 2000 interview with fellow poet H.L. Hix, the former U.S. Poet Laureate, who was often inspired by nature and concerned with ecology and preservation, reads from The Folding Cliffs, which refers to his long-time home in Hawaii. Programs with W.S. Merwin from 1979 and 1993 are also available in our audio archives.
April 12, 2019 Ekphrasis Poetry Reading
In this live reading at Commerce Bank's The Box Gallery, poets Wyatt Townley, H.C. Palmer, Brian Daldorph, Melinda Hemmelgarn, and Catherine Anderson read poems associated with the Ekphrasis exhibit and share stories with visual artists Peg Craig, Meghan Rowswell and Susan Glasgow. They talk about how they used each other's work to create something new, ultimately resulting in the book of 40 artists and poets called Ekphrasis.
Kansas City Literary Events