July 10, 2020 Molly Peacock
American-Canadian essayist, poet and biographer Molly Peacock gives an in-depth look into her latest work, The Analyst, her 2017 poetry collection that traces her decades-long relationship with her psychologist, who suffered a stroke. Full of insightful commentary on the nature of personal growth, facing hardships and how relationships change over time, Peacock shares her reflections on art, love and friendship. She also talks about her work with sonnets and reads a very early poem published in New Letters. Previous shows with Molly Peacock from 1981, 1997, and 1999 are available in our audio archives. She was interviewed while in Kansas City for her 2019 presentation at the Kansas City Public Library.
July 3, 2020 Joy Harjo
In this Save America's Treasures recording we revisit a 1991 interview by former New Letters on the Air host, Rebekah Presson, who talks with well known Native American US Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo. She reads from her book In Mad Love and War, which won both the William Carlos Williams prize from the Poetry Society of America and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Poetry Prize. Harjo—whose memoir, Crazy Brave, was released in July 2012—makes this interview unique by sharing one of her other creative talents, playing the saxophone.
June 26, 2020 Cheers to All the Years
In this program, we look back at our decades of publishing the National Magazine Award-winning New Letters, the American Book Award-winning BkMk (BookMark) Press, and the radio show, New Letters on the Air. Our shared mission to discover, publish, and promote the best new writing, wherever it may be found, is apparent in our audio archives, that go back to 1977. Robert Stewart, Ben Furnish and Angela Elam share stories of collaboration with clips from Jericho Brown, Michael Horovitz, Dan Jaffe, Mariko Nagai, Richard Wilbur, Billy Collins, and Christie Hodgen. Listen as we explore our literary operation, located in the University House on the UMKC campus.
June 19, 2020 Nikky Finney
Poet Nikky Finney discusses how her sense of social justice was informed by her father, the first African American Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, revealing how growing up in the political household shaped her art. She reads a poetic tribute to her father from her second book, Rice, as well as her long, piercing poem "Dancing with Strom" from her fourth collection, the National Book Award-winning Head Off and Split. The editor of the Cave Canem anthology, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, she is now the author of the 2020 collection Love Child's Hotbed of Occasional Poetry: Poems and Artifacts. The first half of this interview focusing on her literary influences is also available in our audio archives.
June 12, 2020 Etheridge Knight: Past American Voice
The late Etheridge Knight began writing poetry in the 1960s, when he was imprisoned for armed robbery, where he discovered that “art is ultimately about freedom.” This program features excerpts from a 1986 poetry reading and a 1989 interview by Rebekah Presson, when they discuss the role of black men in society and his use of prison as a metaphor. The author of four books, he reads from the most comprehensive one: The Essential Etheridge Knight.
June 5, 2020 Claudia Rankine
A 2016 MacArthur Genius Fellow and author of Citizen: An American Lyric, Claudia Rankine discusses the motivation for writing this multi-award-winning work that features poetry, essays, and art, ranging from contemporary pieces to William Turner's paintings of The Slave Ship. Woven throughout the conversation, like the events portrayed in her books, is a discussion of micro-aggressions against not only black individuals, but women as well. Rankine describes her creative writing process while a 2015 guest of Rockhurst University's Midwest Poets Series. In a 2008 interview by New Letters editor Robert Stewart, she discusses her earlier work.
May 29, 2020 That's It!
This special program features the final issue of new works of poetry, fiction, essays and reviews, edited by Robert Stewart for New Letters: Volume 86 Nos. 1 & 2. In this Diastole House reading in February 2020, Albert Goldbarth, John Moessner, Trish Reeves, and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg share their poems from this issue, while poet H.C. Palmer, whose review of John Balaban's recent book Empires also appears in the magazine, reads a tribute letter from that poet. They also applaud fiction writer and incoming New Letters editor Christie Hodgen, as they discuss the influence and impact of Stewart's work as an editor, poet, essayist and champion for the literary arts.
May 22, 2020 Virginia Brackett
Virginia Brackett, the author of 15 books, discusses her 2019 family memoir, In the Company of Patriots. She reveals how she used family stories, scrapbooks, letters, and interviews to trace the life of her father, Captain Edmund C. Roberts, who was killed in the Korean War when she was only eight months old. The Park University Professor Emeritus of English also talks about how she came to writing later in life, after first getting degrees in medical technology and business before studying literature. Her varied publications include a critical companion to Mary Shelly, biographies of literary figures from Virginia Woolf to Sandra Cisneros, as well as businessmen, Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos. Brackett discusses how the dream of writing about her father has been with her since she wrote her first award-winning essay about him in her twenties, before she turned towards other pursuits, and was reignited while working with veterans writing about their experiences.
May 15, 2020 Jericho Brown
Guggenheim fellow Jericho Brown describes the joy he finds in writing poetry and how his work helps him examine his world as a gay black man. He talks about some of his poetic mentors—from Emily Dickinson to Alice Walker—and the lessons he strives to pass along to his students at Emory University. He also reveals the story behind changing his name and discusses his childhood in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he was raised by fundamental Christians. Brown reads from his second collection, The New Testament, winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, as well as his earlier American Book Award winner, Please.
May 8, 2020 Meg Wolitzer
New York Times Bestselling author Meg Wolitzer reads from her most recent novel, The Female Persuasion, and discusses its themes of feminism and the tendency to idealize our mentors. Her work has long centered on the experiences of women, with three of her books having been adapted for film, including The Wife. Wolitzer reflects on her career, and her mother--novelist and poet Hilma Wolitzer, in a conversation with KCUR's Anne Kniggendorf.
May 1, 2020 Ben Lerner
MacArthur Fellow Ben Lerner discusses his third acclaimed novel, The Topeka School, a finalist for the 2019 National Book Critics Circle Award. The multi-award winning fiction writer and poet was interviewed at the Kansas City Public Library on the Plaza during his residence as the fall 2019 UMKC Cockefair Chair Writer-in-Residence. A previous program featured a long reading from the novel; in this half of the presentation, he discusses his craft and some of the rich thematic elements of The Topeka School, including his exploration of masculinity, voice, the boundary between fact and fiction, and the decline of public speech. He also talks about the surprising number of renowned poets from his hometown of Topeka, Kansas, and reveals his transition from writing poetry to fiction.
Kansas City Literary Events
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