August 16, 2019 Alicia Ostriker
Once called "America's most fiercely honest poet" by Progressive magazine, Alicia Ostriker is also a feminist, critic and scholar. Winner of the William Carlos Williams award and a two-time finalist for the National Book Award, Ostriker discusses and reads from her work, including her innovative and intensely personal 2002 collection, The Volcano Sequence.
August 9, 2019 Alberto Ríos
Alberto Ríos, named Arizona Poet Laureate in 2013, grew up in a mixed family on the Arizona-Mexico border. He discusses his experiences living between languages and cultures in his memoir Capirotada, chosen for One Book Arizona. He also reads poems from his 2009 collection The Dangerous Shirt.
August 2, 2019 Beth Ann Fennelly
Beth Ann Fennelly, appointed Poet Laureate of Mississippi in 2016, has written six books of poetry and prose. Born in New Jersey and raised in Illinois, she talks about her relocation to Mississippi and the effect the move has had on her life and her work. She also discusses her development as a poet, teacher, mother, and wife to novelist Tom Franklin, as she reads from her early books, Tender Hooks, Open House, and Unmentionables. She also discusses her nonfiction book, Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother.
July 26, 2019 José Faus
Poet and muralist José Faus was born in Bogota, Colombia but grew up in Kansas, just across the Missouri border. In this interview in front of an audience as the 2019 recipient of UMKC's "Defying the Odds" Alumni Award, he talks about his coming-of-age struggles and how he's used art and writing to change his life. A leader in Kansas City's Latino Writers Collective, Faus shares poetry from his book, The Life and Times of José Calderon, and discusses his views on the struggles of immigrants, as well as ideas on borders and border crossings.
July 19, 2019 Rupert Thomson
English writer Rupert Thomson discusses his eleventh novel, Never Anyone But You, that was shortlisted for the 2018 American Library in Paris Book Award. It explores the true love story of two lesbians in early 20th century France. Discover the history of artists Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, who resisted fascism and dealt with mental illness. In this public interview at the Kansas City Public Library, Thomson also discusses writing his 2010 memoir, This Party's Got to Stop, winner of the Writer's Guild Award for Best Non-Fiction.
July 12, 2019 Amina Gautier
Multi-award winning short story writer, Amina Gautier, shares excerpts from her 2018 PEN/Malamud Award-winning collection, The Loss of All Lost Things, as part of that year's Pleiades Visiting Writers Series at the University of Central Missouri. She also talks about the real-world inspiration and years of research that went into this book, her third short story collection. She also won the Flannery O'Connor Award for her first book, At Risk, about teenaged African-Americans, and the Prairie Schooner Book Prize for her second collection, Now We Will Be Happy, about Afro-Puerto Ricans, as well as displaced islanders and those born on the Mainland U.S.
July 5, 2019 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. A 2014 program with George Saunders is also available in our audio archives.
June 28, 2019 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.
June 21, 2019 Edward Hirsch
In the second part of this conversation, poet and "MacArthur genius" Edward Hirsch discusses how the sudden death of his son inspired his 2014 book Gabriel: A Poem, which was longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award and won the National Jewish Book Award. Though he had written elegiac poetry in the past, this book length poem proved especially difficult to create. Describing it as "a father's book," he reveals the challenges of capturing the spirit of his son while also telling his own story of grief. Hirsch also talks about how he referenced other poets in history who wrote about losing children and the ways in which this helped him process his grief. The first part of this conversation in available in our audio archives.
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.
Kansas City Literary Events