October 19, 2018 Ted Olson
Ted Olson is the winner of two Appalachian Book of the Year Awards and is a six-time Grammy nominee for Best Album Notes. A professor of Appalachian Studies at East Tennessee State University, Olson has served as editor for Crossroads: A Southern Culture Annual. He discusses how his writing has been impacted by the region's history, literature and music, and reads from his poetry collections Revelations and Breathing in Darkness. He also shares stories about his time in Spain and reveals what he learned studying with poet Wendell Berry and the profound influence of editing the late James Still.
October 12, 2018 Mia Leonin & Gustavo Adolfo Aybar
In this public reading at The Writer's Place in Kansas City, poets Mia Leonin and Gustavo Adolfo Aybar celebrate island cultures. Aybar, a native of the Dominican Republic, is a Cave Canem Fellow who shares poems from his 2017 Willow Books Literature Awards Grand Prize Winner, We Seek Asylum. 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.
October 5, 2018 Terrance Hayes
Award-winning poet Terrance Hayes gives insight into his creative process in this public reading as part of the 2016 Hall Center for the Humanities Lecture Series at the University of Kansas. He shares work from his fifth collection, How to Be Drawn, a finalist for both the National Book and National Book Critics Circle Awards, and winner of the NAACP Image Award for Poetry. The MacArthur fellow talks about his love of long sentences, and how he blends Shakespeare with rap references. He also tries out new poems on the audience that have since morphed into his 2018 book, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin. (WARNING: THIS PROGRAM CONTAINS SOME EXPLICIT LANGUAGE.)
September 28, 2018 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.
September 21, 2018 Sandra Cisneros
Latina author Sandra Cisneros, a recipient of the 2015 National Medal of Arts Award from President Obama in 2016 (the last time it was awarded), discusses her groundbreaking 1984 debut novel, The House on Mango Street, which is now required reading in many schools. The founder of the Macondo Foundation to foster creativity among socially-engaged writers, Cisneros talks about her own growth as a writer of fiction, essays and poetry, and reads from this early work as well as from her more recent novel, Caramelo, and her poetry collection, Loose Woman.
September 14, 2018 Martín Espada
In the second part of this public presentation by Martín Espada for Park University's 2013 Ethnic Voices Poetry Series at the Kansas City Public Library, the former tenant lawyer talks about how he was able to transfer his advocacy from the justice system to poetry, giving voice to those who are otherwise silenced. After a fresh reading of the title poem from Alabanza: New and Selected Poems (that varies quite a bit from his 2005 New Letters on the Air recording), he discusses this post 9/11 poem as well as the elegiac tendencies in his collection The Trouble Ball, which won three poetry awards in 2012. He also shares poems about the human rights struggle of our time--immigration. The first half of this presentation, which features the rest of Martín Espada's poetry reading, can be found in our Audio Archives.
September 7, 2018 Diane Williams
Coming of age in the 1960s, Diane Williams began her creative life in ballet and modern dance, until she fell in love with the literary world. She struggled to be taken seriously as a writer and editor in the male dominated era. Now, the three-time winner of the Pushcart Prize for Fiction is the author of eight books, and the editor of the acclaimed literary journal Noon, in which she has mentored numerous experimental writers. At this reading from her book of short fiction from McSweeney's entitled, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, she discusses her craft and approach to language. A 2008 interview with Diane Williams is also available in our Audio Archives.
August 31, 2018 Robert Stewart
Robert Stewart, the St. Louis born writer and editor of New Letters magazine, has written several books of poetry and essays. Winner of the Thorpe Menn Award for Literary Excellence and a National Magazine Award for Editorial Excellence, Stewart talks about his creative process and discusses how his blue collar past has inspired his writing, from his 1988 book Plumbers (reissued in 2017) to his 2018 collection of poetry, Working Class. He also reads from his 2014 essay book, The Narrow Gate: Writing, Art & Values. Earlier interviews with Robert Stewart from 1983 and 2005 are also available in our audio archives.
August 24, 2018 Robin Robertson
While working as a literary editor in London, Robin Robertson found himself losing the language of his native Scotland, so he has incorporated it into his poetry, including his book Swithering, which won the prestigious Forward Poetry Prize for best book. Now selections from that and his other four collections are gathered under one cover in the U.S. in a book called Sailing the Forest. In part two of his 2015 interview with New Letters editor, Robert Stewart, he talks about the influence of his childhood as the son of a Church of Scotland minister in tough Aberdeen on the North Sea, and reads more poetry, including "At Roane Head," winner of another Forward Poetry Prize for Best Single Poem. The first part of this interview is available in our Audio Archives. Read more of this interview in New Letters magazine, Vol. 82, Nos. 3 & 4.
August 17, 2018 Native American Poets Visit the Middle East
This audio anthology features readings by six poets, including a few who are part of the book co-edited by Cherokee writers Diane Glancy and Linda Rodriguez called The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East. Kim Shuck, Bojan Louis, LeAnne Howe, Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán, and Allison Hedge Coke read poetry that intertwines stories about the history, culture, and landscape of the Middle East with their experiences. They were recorded at the 2016 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Los Angeles. We'll also hear the co-editors, along with BkMk Press editor, Ben Furnish, talk about this project supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, on the web at www.arts.gov. A second program featuring more from the editors of this collection can be found in our Audio Archives.
August 10, 2018 Larry Watson
While at the Woodneath Library Center, novelist Larry Watson reads from his tenth book, As Good As Gone. Though he grew up in North Dakota and taught for years at Marquette University in Wisconsin, Watson has based much of his fiction in Montana and admits there are many similarities between his home state and the settings for his books. He reveals how cowboy movies from the early 1960s as well as his own family history have helped to shape his writing aesthetic. Watson also discusses his writing life and his approach to theme, characters, and inspiration.
Kansas City Literary Events