The Amherst College Center for Creative Writing is delighted to invite you to our fiction readings. All events are free, wheelchair-accessible, and open to the public, and will be followed by refreshments.
For more information, please call 542-8200 or visit the website of Amherst Books.
Spring Series 2014
February 12th, Wednesday, 8:00 p.m.
Amherst Books (8 Main Street)
Major Jackson writes, "In his new collection, Coney Island Pilgrims, John Hennessy does more than catalogue the things of this world; he sanctifies them: bruised strawberries, Kangols, an unleashed pit bull. . . These poems are the gateway to a kingdom of rhythmic feeling, linguistic order, and imaginative explorations." Hennessy is the author of a previous collection, Bridge and Tunnel, and his poems have appeared in numerous publications. A former Amy Clampitt Fellow, he teaches at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and serves as poetry editor for The Common.
February 26th, Wednesday, 8:00 pm
Amherst Books (8 Main Street)
Bruce Holdinger, a medievalist, is the author of six scholarly books, including the award-winning Music, Body, and Desire in Medieval Culture. His newly published debut novel, A Burnable Book, draws on this expertise as well: it’s a dark literary thriller set in Chaucer’s London, about which Library Journal writes, “Medieval England never tasted so rich nor smelled so foul as in this descriptive and intricately layered mystery.” Holsinger teaches in the Department of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
March 12th, 7:30 p.m.
Pruyne Lecture Hall (Fayerweather 115)
March 25th, Tuesday, 8:00 p.m.
Pruyne Lecture Hall (Fayerweather 115)
Junot Diaz writes, “Li is extraordinary. . . a storyteller of the first order,” and NPR says, simply, “Yiyun Li is a marvel.” Li, winner of the PEN/Hemingway, MacArthur “Genius,” and many other awards, was named, by The New Yorker, one of twenty writers under forty to watch, and her work has been translated into over 20 languages. She is the author of four books, including the newly published Kinder Solitude. She teaches writing at the University of California, Davis, and lives in Oakland, California, with her husband and their two sons.
April 2nd, Wednesday, 8:00 p.m.
Amherst Books (8 Main Street)
J. D. McClatchy is the author of eight collections of poetry, including his most recent, Plundered Hearts: New and Selected Poems. As the Los Angeles Times puts it: “It’s hard to imagine another poet capable of being wry and tender, unpredictable and measured, original and traditional––within the body of a single poem.” He has also written three books of essays as well as libretti for many contemporary composers, and his operas have played in such houses as the Metropolitan Opera and La Scala. He teaches at Yale, where he also serves as editor of The Yale Review.
April 9th, Wednesday, 8:00 p.m.
Amherst Books (8 Main Street)
As the Boston Globe writes: “No other writer can make a few small decisions ripple across the globe, and across time, with more subtlety and power.” Joan Silber is the author of seven books of fiction, including Fools, which waslonglisted for the National Book Award, and Ideas of Heaven, a finalist for the National Book Award. Her short stories have been anthologized in, among other collections, The O. Henry Prize Stories, including this year’s, and the Pushcart Prize volumes. She lives in New York City and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.
February 14th, Thursday, 8:00
The Alumni House, Amherst College
Jennifer Egan calls Amity Gaige “a fresh, forceful young voice in American letters,” and praises Schroder, her newest book, as an “offbeat, exquisitely written novel.” Gaige is the author of two other novels, O My Darling and The Folded World. In 2006, she was recognized as one of the “5 Under 35” outstanding emerging writers by the National Book Foundation; she is also the winner of a Fulbright Fellowship, among many other awards. Her short stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in such publications as The New York Times, O Magazine, and the Literary Review. Gaige lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, and is the current Visiting Writer at Amherst College.
George Howe Colt
February 19th, Tuesday, 8:00
George Howe Coltis the bestselling author of The Big House (2004), which was a National Book Award finalist and a New York Times notable book of the year, and of the newly published Brothers, which Maile Meloy, writing for The New Yorker, described as “Part memoir, part exhaustively researched biography of famous brothers and how they drove each other, loved each other, fought, drove each other crazy, and supported each other through craziness…Insightful and harrowing and funny and stacked with stories.” Colt lives with his wife Anne Fadiman and their two children in Western Massachusetts.
February 26th, Tuesday, 8:00
Michael Tyrell is the author of the poetry collection The Wanted, which Michael Collier called, “sharp-eyed, intellectually inventive, playful, and darkly humorous… Tyrell looks at himself and cleaves the essential human matter of his perceptions onto the provocative and often sinuous lines of his verse.” Tyrell’s poems have appeared in The New Republic, The New York Times, and Ploughshares, among many other publications. With Julia Spicher Kasdorf, he edited the anthology Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn (NYU Press, 2007). He lives in New York and teaches writing at NYU.
March 12th, Tuesday, 8:00
Jennifer Clarvoe's second book of poems, Counter-Amores, appeared in 2011. Her first book, Invisible Tender, won the Poets Out Loud Prize and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. J.D. McClatchy writes, “Clarvoe’s canny perspectives, glistening details, and unnerving surprises are a constant delight. Her book places her at once in the starry company of poets like Elizabeth Bishop and May Swenson. I am moved and thrilled to know, here is the real thing, a poet.” A recipient of the Rome Prize in Literature, Clarvoe teaches literature and creative writing at Kenyon College, in Ohio.
April 16th, Tuesday, 8:00
Hector Tobar is a Los-Angeles-born novelist and journalist. He is the author of three books, most recently The Barbarian Nurseries, which was named a New York Times Notable Book in 2011 and also won the California Book Award Gold Medal for Fiction, a distinction Tobar shares with John Steinbeck, among others. The Los Angeles Times called The Barbarian Nurseries “A book of extraordinary scope and extraordinary power.” Tobar has also worked as a reporter, and was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 1992 L.A. riots.
Fall Series 2012
Ghassan Zaqtan and Fady Joudah
October 1, Monday, 8:00 pm
Amherst Books (8 Main Street)
Acclaimed Palestinian poet (and novelist, journalist, screenwriter, playwright, and editor) Ghassan Zaqtan has written ten collections of poetry and two novels; his poetry and prose have been translated into numerous languages. Of the new collection, Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, Cole Swensen writes: “Zaqtan’s poems are uncompromising in their direct engagement with daily life. . . Joudah’s brilliant translations capture not only sense, sound, and rhythm, but also pulse, infusing the English language with a new sensibility.”
Poet and translator Fady Joudah's first poetry collection, The Earth in the Attic, was a Yale Series recipient in 2007, chosen by Louise Glück who called the book “varied, coherent, fierce, tender; impossible to put down, impossible to forget.” His second collection, Alight, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press. Joudah’s translations of Mahmoud Darwish's poetry have earned him Banipal and PEN literary prizes. He is a practicing physician in Houston, Texas.
October 17th, Wednesday, 8:00 pm
Patrick Pritchett’s most recent book, Gnostic Frequencies, has been called by Andrew Joron“a major contribution to the tradition of American radical lyricism,” while Norman Finkelstein describes it as “an extraordinary, audacious collection, filled with strange treasures and uncanny passages.” His 2005 book, Burn—Doxology for Joan of Arc, was hailed by Cole Swensen as“a stunningly lyrical consideration of belief and its power over fate.” Pritchett’s other collections include the artist’s book, Salt My Love, and the chapbooks Antiphonal, Lives of the Poets, and Reside. He is a visiting lecturer at Amherst College.
Stephanie Reents ‘92
October 24th, Wednesday, 8:00 pm
Amherst Books (8 Main Street)
Lauren Groff, ’01, calls Stephanie Reents “a writer of terrific grace and power,” while The New York Times Book Review wrote, about her first book of stories, The Kissing List: “Reents’s characters are as sharp as they are sly, as intellectually brilliant as they are oddball. These stories are often funny, but there’s a satisfying dark edge to all this…quarter-life-crisis flounderin.”Her fiction has been included in the O. Henry Prize Stories and Best of the West and noted in the Best American Short Stories. A former Rhodes Scholar and Stegner Fellow, Rents currently teaches at College of the Holy Cross and lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
November 8th, Thursday, 8:00 pm
Amherst Books (8 Main Street)
Verlyn Klinkenborg is the author of Making Hay, The Rural Life, The Last Fine Time, Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, and, newly, Several Short Sentences About Writing. He has also written a long-running series of meditations on rural life for The New York Times, where he is a member of the editorial board. According to the Los Angeles Times: “Klinkenborg is neither naturalist nor nature poet, but he writes about nature with the science of the former and the soul of the latter.” He lives in upstate New York.
November 13th, Tuesday, 8:00 pm
Amherst Books (8 Main Street)
Christopher Benfey is a poet, literary critic, and author of four books about the American Gilded Age, including the award-winning A Summer of Hummingbirds. Most recently he’s published a family history, about which The New York Times Book Review wrote, "To paraphrase Emily Dickinson only slightly, there is no vessel like a book. Especially when it's as well wrought and far-sailing as Christopher Benfey's Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay.” Benfey is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, and The New Republic, among many other publications. He is Mellon Professor of English at Mount Holyoke.
Spring Series 2012
February 8th, Wednesday, 8 pm
For his bestselling book, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, Daniyal Mueenuddin was the 2010 winner of The Story Prize, as well as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and the LA Times Book Prize; the book has been translated into 16 languages. His National Book Award citation calls him "One of the best new story writers in America,” and The New York Times describes the book’s stories as “Intimate portraits that raise some of the biggest questions in Pakistan today.” A graduate of Dartmouth College and Yale Law School, Mueenuddin practiced law in New York, and now lives on a farm in Pakistan’s southern Punjab.
February 20th, Monday, 8 pm
Poetry Daily called Major Jackson’s most recent book, Holding Company, “A devastatingly beautiful collection of strange and wonderful poems.” Jackson is the author of two other collections: Hoops, which was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award in the category of Outstanding Literature, and Leaving Saturn, winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize and finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. “Major Jackson,” writes Dorianne Laux, “makes poems that rumble and rock.” Jackson is the Richard Dennis Green and Gold Professor at University of Vermont, a core faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars, and the Poetry Editor of the Harvard Review.
March 8th, Thursday, 8 pm
David Bezmozgis is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. His first book, Natasha and Other Stories, was translated into 15 languages, was a New York Times Notable Book, and won the Toronto Book Award and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for First Book. Esquire called the book, “Scary good…Not a line or note in the book rings false.” In 2010, he made New Yorker’s “20 under 40” list. His first novel, The Free World, was published last year, and his screenplay was produced as a feature film, Victoria Day, which premiered at Sundance in 2009. Bezmozgis was born in Latvia and raised in Toronto, and is currently a fellow at the Harvard/Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
April 4th, Wednesday, 8 pm
Pruyne Lecture Hall
Peter Gizzi's books include Periplum, Some Values of Landscape and Weather, The Outernationale, and his recent Threshold Songs—poems that “reach persistently for what comes to seem like the ghost of the beauty of the world” (Poetry Foundation). He has also published several limited-edition chapbooks, folios, and artist books. His work has been translated into numerous languages and anthologized here and abroad, and Adrienne Rich has described his “disturbing lyricism…like no other—the innermost whir of the daily curtain rising on outer catastrophe.” He is Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
April 19th, Thursday, 8 pm
The New York Times has called Jim Shepard “a fiction writer of peculiar but tantalizing gifts,” while Slate has described him as “our leading miniaturist of massive catastrophe,” with his stories about Aeschylus, Chernobyl, Joan of Arc, and everyday heartbreak. Shepard is the author of six novels, including most recently Project X, and four story collections, including Like You’d Understand, Anyway, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and won The Story Prize, and his most recent You Think That’s Bad. His fiction has appeared in numerous publications, including in McSweeney’s, The Paris Review, and The New Yorker, and he teaches at Williams College.
Fall Series 2011
September 22, Thursday, 8:00 pm
Amherst Books (8 Main Street)
Lawrence Douglas is the author of two novels, The Catastrophist, which was a Kirkus Best Book of the Year, and the newly released Vices, which Sabina Murray has called "a witty, provocative, and devilishly entertaining book," and Booklist has described as an “intriguing, thought-provoking exploration of a man desperately unhappy to be living his own life.” Douglas is the James J. Grosfeld Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought at Amherst College and the author of The Memory of Judgment, a study of war crimes trials, and co-author, with Alex George, of the humor book Sense and Nonsensibility.
October 13, Thursday, 8:00 pm
Amherst Books (8 Main Street)
Annie Dillard praised Salvatore Scibona’s first book, The End, as “a masterful novel set amid racial upheaval in 1950s America… Full of wisdom, consequence and grace, Salvatore Scibona’s radiant debut brims with the promise of a remarkable literary career, of which The End is only the beginning.” The End was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award, and winner of the Young Lions Fiction Award, while Scibona himself has received numerous awards and was named to the "20 Under 40" list of writers to watch by the New Yorker. He administers the writing fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
November 2, Wednesday, 8:00 pm
J.D. McClatchy has said about Kay Ryan, U.S. Poet Laureate (2008-2010), "Her poems are compact, exhilarating, strange affairs, like Erik Satie miniatures or Joseph Cornell boxes. She is an anomaly in today's literary culture: as intense and elliptical as Dickinson, as buoyant and rueful as Frost." Ryan has published numerous collections of poetry, including The Niagara River (2005), Say Uncle (2000), and Elephant Rocks (1996); The Best of It, an anthology of her work, won a Pulitzer Prize this year. Other awards include the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship, an Ingram Merrill Award, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Marin County, in California.
PLEASE NOTE THE VENUE CHANGE FOR THIS EVENT!
November 29, Tuesday, 8:00 pm
Cole Assembly Room, aka The Red Room (Converse Hall)
Jennifer Egan's books include Look at Me, The Keep, and, most recently, A Visit from the Goon Squad, which won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The New York Review of Books described it as "A rich and unforgettable novel about decay and endurance, about individuals in a world as it changes around them…" and The New York Times as "A spiky, shape-shifting book… A display of Egan's extreme virtuosity." Egan was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in 2011, and is the recipient of many other awards and distinctions, including NEA and Guggenheim Fellowships. She lives in Brooklyn.
December 7, Wednesday, 8:00 pm
Amherst Books (8 Main Street)
“[Sabina] Murray writes stories of fierce intensity, stories that are evocative, distinct, and haunting," Claire Messud wrote in The New York Times Book Review about The Caprices, a collection that won the 2002 PEN/Faulkner Award. Murray is also the author of Slow Burn, A Carnivore's Inquiry, Forgery, and, newly, Tales of the New World--a collection of short stories that charts the travels of explorers and settlers from Magellan to Jim Jones, re-imagining the pivotal and private moments of their famous expeditions. Murray, a Guggenheim Fellow among many other honors, directs the Creative Writing Program at Umass Amherst.
Spring Series 2011
February 10th, Thursday, 8:00 pm
Harding's debut novel, Tinkers, won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize and PEN / Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers Award; the book was published independently after its rejection by major publishing houses. Marilynne Robinson calls Tinkers "truly remarkable. . . It confers on the reader the best privilege fiction can afford, the illusion of ghostly proximity to other human souls." And the San Francisco Chronicle writes, "In Paul Harding’s stunning first novel, we find what readers, writers and reviewers live for."Harding graduated from the University of Massachusetts and was a drummer for the band Cold Water Flat before earning his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. A 2010 Guggenheim fellow, he now lives near Boston with his wife and two sons, and is working on his second novel.
Ted Conover '80
March 3rd, Thursday, 8:00 pm
"The Routes of Man tells the stories of six roads to explore how they’ve changed humanity and culture," says Time's Rebecca Skloot of Conover's most recent book. "I’ve been carrying the hardback in my suitcase, which says a lot." The New Yorker calls "his humane sketches of truckers, lumberjacks, prostitutes, and businessmen" "a delight." Conover's earlier Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing won the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Conover is the author of five books, the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a distinguished writer-in-residence at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University.
March 24th, Thursday, 8:00 pm
Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times writes, of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, "This arresting debut collection of stories decisively establishes Mr. Tower as a writer of uncommon talent." And Michael Chabon writes, "Wells Tower's stories are written, thrillingly, in authentic American vernacular--violent, funny, bleak, and beautiful. You need to read them, now." Tower is the recipient of numerous literary awards, including two Pushcart Prizes and a National Magazine Award for Fiction, and was also included in the New Yorker's list of the twenty most promising fiction writers under the age of forty. He is currently a fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. He divides his time between Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Brooklyn, New York.
April 13th, Wednesday, 8:00 pm
Linda Pastan has published 13 volumes of poetry, the most recent of which is Traveling Light. The New York Times Book Review writes, "Pastan's unfailing mastery of her medium holds the darkness firmly in check." And, in Pastan's own words, "the art that mattered / was the life led fully / stanza by swollen stanza." Pastan's poems have appeared in numerous journals, including The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, The Nation, and The Georgia Review. She has been Poet Laureate of Maryland and twice a finalist for the National Book Award, and in 2003 she won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement. She grew up in New York City and lives with her husband in Potomac, Maryland.
Fall Reading Series 2010
October 6, Wednesday, 8:00 pm
Amity Gaige is the author of two novels, O My Darling and The Folded World, which The New York Times called, “stirring,” and Entertainment Weekly called “Exquisitely written [. . .] The bitterness and disillusion of marriage have been thoroughly plumbed in contemporary fiction; Gaige is one of the rare novelists who is more interested in its potential for happiness and grace.” Gaige, who was recognized in 2006 as one of “5 Under 35” outstanding emerging writers by the National Book Foundation, has received Fulbright and McDowell Colony Fellowships, among many other awards, and is currently the visiting writer at Amherst College.
October 14, Thursday, 8:00 pm
Peggy O'Brien, the author of two collections of poetry, Sudden Thaw and Frog Spotting, has been acclaimed by The Irish Times for writing that is "subtle, elusive and tinged with erotic intensity." Or, as Martín Espada puts it, “Peggy O’Brien writes with such intelligence, such sensitivity, such skill about everything, it seems, from the grace of dragonflies to a solemn march of wild turkeys to the memory of a poet-friend who lived joyfully and died young." A member of the English Department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, she is also the editor of the Wake Forest Book of Irish Women's Poetry.
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
October 21, Thursday, 8:00 pm
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum is the author of two novels, Madeleine Is Sleeping, a finalist for the 2004 National Book Award, and Ms. Hempel Chronicles, a finalist for the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award. The Los Angeles Times wrote, "Such a beautiful book is Ms. Hempel Chronicles, the kind that gives its reader profound insights into ordinary, everyday life," while The New York Times described it "as an account of how nostalgia — both for what was and might have been — can generate a thousand mercies." Recently named one of “20 Under 40” fiction writers by the The New Yorker, she directs the MFA program in writing at the University of California, San Diego.
November 11, Thursday, 8:00 pm
Russian poet Polina Barskova published the first of her eight collections when she was still a teenager; her poetry has since been translated into French, German, Italian, Danish, and now, with the recent publication of This Lamentable City, English. Alicia Ostriker writes,"Lavishly mordant, magically bitter, erotically sardonic, the poems […] plant themselves on the far side of history's hopelessness, where sometimes even a trace of love springs." Publishers Weekly calls her "a poet whose voice is at once so intimate and taunting, it can be almost impossible to resist her." Barskova lives in Massachusetts and teaches at Hampshire College.
Richard Wilbur '42
December 2, Thursday, 8:00 pm
Pruyne Lecture Hall
In a review of Wilbur's 600-page Collected Poems 1943-2004, The New York Times wrote, "The emergence of a poet like Wilbur as a hero to a new generation of critics is cause for hope: that readers, not gatekeepers, might rediscover poems written in the spirit of generosity and care, and disciplined by the idea of an uncaptive audience." Or, as Slate put it, "Wilbur's great poems feel as fresh—as astonishing, as perplexing, as shocking—as they did 50 years ago." The former U.S. poet laureate's vivid array of honors includes the National Book Award and two Pulitzer Prizes. He has recently returned to Amherst as a John Woodruff Simpson Lecturer.
Previously. . . .
Tuesday, March 23rd 2010, 8 pm
Franz Wright won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2004 for his book Walking to Martha's Vineyard. He and his father James Wright are the only parent-child pair to have won the Pulitzer Prize in the same category. His other collections include Wheeling Motel, God's Silence, and The Beforelife (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize). Boston Review has called Wright's poems "among the most honest, haunting, and human being written today," and Denis Johnson has described them as "tiny jewels shaped by blunt, ruined fingers--miraculous gifts." Wright currently lives in Waltham, Massachusetts.
This event is co-sponsored by the Amherst College Creative Writing Center and the Department of European Studies. It is free and open to the public, and will be followed by refreshments.
Deanna Fei '99
Monday April 12th, 8 pm
Ann Patchett calls novelist Deanna Fei "one to watch," Anita Shreve calls A Thread of Sky (Penguin, 2010) "a remarkable debut by a gifted young novelist," and Alexander Chee writes, "Fei's debut novel is both intensely enjoyable and, I think, important--this novel charts the cost of that famous Asian silence between generations, as a family takes in the price of it across several generations. But it is also an intimate portrait of that famous 'new China', as much of a surprise to Chinese-Americans as it is to the rest of us. Truly a book for our times."
Deanna Fei was born in Flushing, New York, and has lived in Beijing and Shanghai, China. A 1999 graduate Amherst College, she has received a Fulbright grant, a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship, and a Chinese cultural scholarship, among other awards. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she teaches in public schools and is at work on her second novel.
Thursday, April 29th, 8:00 p.m.
This event, sponsored by the Creative Writing Center, is free and open to the public and will be followed by refreshments.
Chee, whom Edmund White has called "The best new novelist I've seen in some time" and Annie Dillard called "a brilliant new writer," is the author of Edinburgh (Picador, 2002), and The Queen of the Night (forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). The Guardian called Edinburgh “A complex, sophisticated, elegant investigation of trauma and desire - like a white hot flame," and Washington Post Book World described it as “A coming-of-age novel in the grand Romantic tradition, where passions run high, Cupid stalks Psyche, and love shares the dance floor with death . . . A lovely, nuanced, never predictable portrait of a creative soul in the throes of becoming.” The novel won the Michener Copernicus Prize, the AAWW Lit Award and the Lambda Editor’s Choice Prize, and was a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year. Out Magazine honored Chee as one of their 100 Most Influential People of 2003.
Chee was born in Rhode Island, and raised in South Korea, Guam and Maine. He was a recipient of the 2003 Whiting Writers’ Award, a 2004 NEA Fellowship in Fiction and residencies from the MacDowell Colony, Ledig House, The Hermitage and the VCCA. He lives in Amherst and New York.
Talk with Your Mouth Full: Lunch with writer An Na, '94
Thursday, February 4th, 12:30. Webster 215.
Come, have a sandwich, and talk about writing and publishing with critically acclaimed--and wildly popular--young adult author An Na. An Na was born in Korea, grew up in San Diego, California, and graduated from Amherst in 1994. Her first novel, A Step from Heaven, received the American Library Association's Michael L. Printz Award, and was a National Book Award Finalist and a "Notable" of the New York Times Book Review, which called the book "endowed with a haunting grace by the exquisite voice of a new young writer." Lunch will be provided.
Fall '09 Reading Series
Reading from Poems from the Women's Movement
Wednesday, September 16th, 7:30 pm
Cole Assembly Room, Converse Hall
“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?/ The world would split open.” Muriel Rukeyser's lines epitomize the spirit of a whole generation of women poets, from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, who explored the unspoken truths of their lives and sparked a literary revolution. Poets Joan Larkin, Honor Moore, and Eileen Myles will read their own poems and others from Moore's anthology. Several students from the Five Colleges will join them in reading from the collection of 58 poets, which includes Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Anne Sexton, Sonia Sanchez, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, and Diane Di Prima, and which is listed in Oprah’s Book Club’s "25 Books You Can't Put Down." Co-sponsored by the Amherst College Creative Writing Center and English Department, The Massachusetts Review, the Poetry Center at Smith College, Perugia Press, and The Everywoman’s Center at the University of Massachusetts.
Richard Wilbur '42
Thursday, September 17th, 8 pm
Pruyne Lecture Hall, Fayerweather
In a review of Wilbur's 600-page Collected Poems 1943-2004, the The New York Times wrote, "The emergence of a poet like Wilbur as a hero to a new generation of critics is cause for hope: that readers, not gatekeepers, might rediscover poems written in the spirit of generosity and care, and disciplined by the idea of an uncaptive audience." Or, as Slate put it, "Wilbur's poems matter not because they may or may not be stylish at any given moment but because they keep the English language alive: Wilbur's great poems feel as fresh—as astonishing, as perplexing, as shocking—as they did 50 years ago." The former U.S. poet laureate's vivid array of honors includes the National Book Award and two Pulitzer Prizes--as well as a 1942 BA from Amherst College. He has recently returned as a John Woodruff Simpson Lecturer to co-teach a poetry workshop.
Wednesday, October 14th, 8 pm
Jedediah Berry's first novel, The Manual of Detection, was described by The New Yorker as "the kind of mannered fantasy that might result if Wes Anderson were to adapt Kafka." In fact, Google "Jedediah Berry" with "Kafka" and you'll get more than 3500 hits, with "Borges" and you'll get 2500; the glowing comparisons abound, and The Wall Street Journal referred to Berry's unique cross of hard-boiled detective fiction with absurdist art as "a surreal transmogrification of a genre." Berry's short fiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best New American Voices, Best American Fantasy, Conjunctions, and Chicago Review. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, and works as assistant editor of Small Beer Press.
Tuesday, September 29th, 8 pm
Sigrid Nunez has published five novels, including A Feather on the Breath of God, For Rouenna, and, most recently, The Last of Her Kind. The New York Times described this last, set in the American counterculture of 1968, as "A remarkable novel. . .it startles and lingers long in the heart and the mind." And The Boston Globe called it " a brilliant, dazzling, daring novel. Nunez has taken the old American Dream and stood it on its head." Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and journals, including The New York Times, Harper’s, Tin House, and The Believer. The recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, Nunez lives and works in New York City; her sixth novel will be published next year.
Thursday, November 12, 8 pm
The New York Times writes, "Why devote oneself to that aggressively minor genre, poetry, when novels and screenplays and tell-all memoirs get more notice and make more money? Brad Leithauser answers that question in Curves and Angles."Leithauser is the author of five novels, five volumes of poetry, a novel in verse, two collections of light verse, and a book of essays. Among the many awards and honors he has received are a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship; in 2005, Leithauser was inducted into the Order of the Falcon by the president of Iceland for his writings about Nordic literature. He and his wife, the poet Mary Jo Salter, divide their time between Amherst and Baltimore, where they both teach at Johns Hopkins.
February 5th Thursday 8:00 p.m. Pruyne Lecture Hall
Thom Gunn praised the poet Craig Arnold as "Energetic, cool, and stylish. He should have been a gang-leader." Arnold is the author of a debut collection, Shells, as well as his recent volume, Made Flesh—a mythological rhapsody on the themes of love, death, and madness that has received rave reviews: Publishers Weekly called it "a delayed depth charge [...] erotic and ever-alert [...] the strangest and most instinctively powerful poetry book of the season.” Arnold teaches poetry at the University of Wyoming when he’s not in Japan working on lyric essays about volcanoes and the end of the world as we know it.
February 19th Thursday 8:00 p.m. Amherst Books
Amity Gaige is the author of two novels, O My Darling and her recent The Folded World, which The New York Times called, “stirring” and Entertainment Weekly called “Exquisitely written [. . .] The bitterness and disillusion of marriage have been thoroughly plumbed in contemporary fiction; Gaige is one of the rare novelists who is more interested in its potential for happiness and grace.” Gaige, who was recognized in 2006 as one of “5 Under 35” outstanding emerging writers by the National Book Foundation, lives in Amherst and teaches creative writing and literature at Mt. Holyoke College.
Seventh Annual Five College PoetryFest
Monday February 23rd 7:00 p.m. Pruyne Lecture Hall
The PoetryFest celebrates the quality and range of student poetry in the Valley with two writers representing each of the colleges and the University of Massachusetts.
This year's poets are:
Amherst College: Rachel Edelman and Catherine Champion
Hampshire College: Unique Robinson and Cassandra de Alba
Mount Holyoke College: Sarah Coates and Emily Yates
Smith College: Kate O'Connor Morris and Stephanie Woodruff
UMass Amherst: Sarah Levine and Susan Thorpe
March 5th Thursday 8:00 p.m. Center for Russian Culture (Webster, 2nd floor)
Honoring poet Ilya Kaminsky with a Metcalf Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters wrote, “With his magical style in English, poems in Dancing In Odessa seem like a literary counterpart to Chagall in which laws of gravity have been suspended and colors reassigned, but only to make everyday reality that much more indelible.” Anthony Hecht called him “A superb and vigorous imagination, a poetic talent of rare and beautiful proportions.” Kaminsky, who was born in Odessa and lives in California, writes award-winning poetry in both Russian and English. He teaches creative writing and translation at San Diego State University.
March 12th Thursday 8:00 p.m. Amherst Books
Alex Chee has described Nami Mun as “easily one of the most important new talents in American fiction.” Her novel, Miles from Nowhere, which chronicles the life of a Korean immigrant teen living on the streets of New York in the 1980’s, was described by People magazine as “[A] searing debut […][Mun] writes with lovely precision, lending a hallucinatory beauty to the bleak world she has created.” Peter Ho Davies called it “A starkly beautiful book, shot through with grace and lit by an off-hand street poetry.” The recipient of a Pushcart Prize as well as many other honors, Mun lives and teaches creative writing in Chicago.
March 25th Wednesday 8:00 p.m. Amherst Books
Writing for The New York Observer, Adam Begley called Emily Barton "A copiously talented, daring writer,” and Thomas Pynchon has described her work as "blessedly post-ironic, engaging and heartfelt." Her novel Brookland imagines an 18th-century gin distiller who dreams of a bridge that might connect Brooklyn with Manhattan.
The New York Times called Brookland “[m]arvelous,” and named it a 2006 Notable Book. Barton lives in the Hudson River Valley, and teaches at Yale University and Bard College.
September 25th Thursday 8:00 pm Amherst Books
In Sons and Other Flammable Objects, novelist Porochista Khakpour explores ethnicity, nationalism, and post-9/11 fear—themes she addresses with what the New Yorker calls “the exuberant originality of her style. The characters burst from the page in fiery exchanges, while their chaotic inner lives are conveyed with witty precision.” Similarly, The New York Times Book Review praises the book’s “Punchy conversation, vivid detail, [and] sharp humor.” Born in Tehran, and raised in Los Angeles, Khakpour lives in New York and teaches Fiction at Bucknell University.
William Jay Smith
October 8th Wednesday 8:00 pm Pruyne Lecture Hall
Richard Wilbur has called William Jay Smith, “A most gifted poet… one of the very few who cannot be confused with anyone else,” and Elizabeth Frank, writing for The Atlantic Monthly, has said, “That Smith has written poems with rhythm, rhyme, wit, and melody… is cause for celebration, homage, and gratitude.” Smith is the author of more than fifty books of poetry, children’s verse, literary criticism, translation, and memoirs, as well as the editor of numerous anthologies. Born in 1918 in Winnfield, Louisiana, Smith currently makes his home between Cummington, Massachusetts, and Paris, France.
Stephen Haven ‘79
October 22nd Wednesday 8:00 pm Pruyne Lecture Hall
Harold Bloom called Stephen Haven's Dust and Bread “an intensely moving and eloquent book of poems… It is a book, not just individual elegies and meditations, and portrays the authentic awakening to self of a poet's soul through experiential crisis." Haven is the author of three poetry collections, as well as The River Lock: One Boy’s Life along the Mohawk, a memoir that explores boyhood in a dwindling factory town. Twice a Fulbright Lecturer at universities in Beijing, Haven is Director of the Creative Writing Program at Ashland University, where he also directs the Ashland Poetry Press.
November 5th Wednesday 8:00 pm Amherst Books
In a starred review, Kirkus called South African poet Yvette Chritiansë’s novel Unconfessed “A gorgeous, devastating song of freedom that will inevitably be compared to Toni Morrison’s Beloved.” The book was a finalist for the 2007 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for a distinguished first book of fiction, and Caroline Leavitt described it as a “stunningly intimate, heart-wrenching history of slave life in Africa.” Christiansë is Associate Professor of literature and postcolonial studies at Fordham University.
November 13th Thursday 8:00 pm Pruyne Lecture Hall
Hailed by The New York Review of Books as “one of the most gifted and multifaceted and original of American poets,” Richard Kenney has published four books of poems, including, most recently, The One-Strand River, which the Kenyon Review described this way: “There are incantations and meditations—the dawns, moons, births, and funerals—but there are also comic scenes, nursery rhymes, takes on myth, glosses on current events, and verdant hallucinations.” A recipient of MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, among numerous other honors, he currently teaches at the University of Washington.
November 19th Wednesday 8:00 pm Amherst Books
Tayari Jones’ first novel, Leaving Atlanta, received multiple awards and honors, including the Hurston/Wright Award for Debut Fiction. Continuing a vibrant preoccupation with the urban south, her second novel, The Untelling, followed one family’s struggle to overcome a fatal car accident—and caused Essence magazine to call Jones, "a writer to watch," while The Atlanta Journal Constitution proclaimed her "one of the best writers of her generation." The recipient of numerous fellowships, Tayari is an Assistant Professor in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University.
February 28th, Thursday, 8:00 pm Amherst Books
Writing for The New York Observer, Adam Begley called Emily Barton "A copiouslytalented, daring writer,” and Thomas Pynchon has described her work as"blessedly post-ironic, engaging and heartfelt." Her novel Brookland imagines an 18th-century gin distillerwho dreams of a bridge that might connect her Brooklyn to Manhattan.
The New York Timescalled Brookland “[m]arvelous,” and named it a 2006 Notable Book. Barton hasreceived numerous fellowships and awards, and currently serves as distinguishedvisiting writer at Bard College.
March 6th, Thursday, 8:00 pm Pruyne Lecture Hall,Fayerweather
Adam Haslett is the author of the short story collection YouAre Not a Stranger Here, which was afinalist for a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. TheNew Yorker has described Haslett as “aneloquent, precise miniaturist,” and his collection as “a fascinating snapshotof life during the era of Prozac, when new ways of thinking about emotion haveforced us to adjust our notion of identity and even, perhaps, of grace.”Winner of the 2006PEN/Malamud Award for accomplishment in short fiction, Haslett currently livesin New York City, where he is working on a novel.
March 13th, Thursday, 8:00 pm Amherst Books
Victoria Redel is the award-winning author of two books ofpoetry and three books of fiction. Grace Paley said ofRedel’s story collection Where the RoadBottoms Out, “Only a poet could have written this prose. Only astoryteller could keep a reader turning these pages so greedily.” Redel’s mostrecent novel, The Border of Truth,follows the daughter of a Holocaust survivor as she uncovers the secrets of herfamily's history, and Publishers Weekly called it “a welcome and fresh perspective on the well-trod subject ofthe Holocaust.”
March 27th, Thursday, 8:00 pm Amherst Books
Stephanie Grant’s first novel, The Passion of Alice, was nominated for Britain’s Orange Prize for WomenWriters and the Lambda Award for Best Lesbian Fiction. Her new novel, Mapof Ireland, is a contemporary retelling ofHuck Finn that Publisher’s Weeklydescribes as “funny and startlingly frank”: “Grant expertly captures theconfusion, angst, and insightfulness of a teenager dealing with race and sexualrelations in a turbulent era.” Formerly Writer-in-Residence at Mount HolyokeCollege, Grant is currently Visiting Writer at the Franklin HumanitiesInstitute at Duke University.
April 10th, Thursday, 8:00 pm Pruyne Lecture Hall, Fayerweather
The poet Alan Williamson has said, "Stephen Yensercombines two qualities rarely found together: an extraordinary gift for verbalplay and a bedrock seriousness about the emotional aims of poetry.” Yenser iscelebrated as both a poet and a critic, and is the author of two volumes ofpoetry, The Fire in All Things, whichwon a Walt Whitman Award, and the recent collection Blue Guide. The recipient of numerous awards and fellowships,Yenser is a professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at theUniversity of California in Los Angeles.
April22nd, Tuesday, 8:00 pm, Pruyne Lecture Hall, Fayerweather
Michael Ryan putit this way: “That Gabriel Fried has the talent, skill, intelligence, andwisdom to have an exceptional future as a poet is unquestionable, but thisfirst book of his already represents a mature accomplishment of the art."And Richard Howard praised this same collection, the irony-free dream-filled,daily-life-filled Makingthe New Lamb Take,saying “even the rawest intuitions, the rarest vulnerabilities are protected bythis poet's caretaking spirit." Fried lives in New York City, where heedits the poetry series at Persea Books.
Mark Costello (’84)
September 19 Wednesday 8:00 pm Pruyne Lecture Hall (Fayerweather 115)
The co-author, with David Foster Wallace, of Signifying Rappers: Rap and Race in the Urban Present, Mark Costello wrote his first novel, Bag Men, under the pseudonym John Flood while working as a federal prosecutor. But he was nominated as himself for a National Book Award for Big If, his story about a Secret Service agent, politics, and paranoia. Writing for The New York Times, Jay McInerney called the book, “a dazzling performance,” and concluded, “With this second novel, Costello enters the big leagues of American Fiction.”
September 26 Wednesday 8:00 pm Pruyne Lecture Hall (Fayerweather 115)
Reviewing While I Was Gone, William H. Pritchard praised both the “patient, unfancy, locally rooted narration that has been Miller's trademark” and the bestselling novelist’s “commitment to rendering the weave and texture—above all, the tonality—of the everyday.” Miller’s forthcoming The Senator’s Wife offers another rich portrait of private lives, as complicatedly unremarkable as those in her previous nine books of fiction, which include the iconic The Good Mother and Inventing the Abbotts.
October 17 Wednesday 8:00 pm Amherst Books
In a starred review, Kirkus called South African poet Yvette Chritiansë’s novel Unconfessed “A gorgeous, devastating song of freedom that will inevitably be compared to Toni Morrison’s Beloved.” The book was a finalist for the 2007 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for a distinguished first book of fiction, and Caroline Leavitt described it as “stunningly intimate, heart-wrenching history of slave life in Africa.” Christiansë is Associate Professor of literature and postcolonial studies at Fordham University.
October 25 Thursday 8:00 pm Amherst Books
Reviewing Twilight of the Superheroes for The New York Times, Ben Marcus wrote, “[T]here aren’t many contemporary novels as shudderingly intimate and mordantly funny as Eisenberg’s best stories,” and called her “one of the most important fiction writers now at work.” From a group of friends whose luck in acquiring a Manhattan sublet turns to disaster as their balcony becomes a front-row seat to the catastrophe of 9/11, to the too-painful love of a brother for his schizophrenic sister, Eisenberg brilliantly “illustrates the lives of people rubbed raw by what the fates have sent them” (Vanity Fair).
November 1 Thursday 6:00 pm Johnson Chapel
Pulitzer Prize winner and United States Poet Laureate (2003-4) Louise Glück is the author of numerous books of poetry. Her tenth, Averno, was nominated for a National Book Award, and according to The New York Times, demonstrates that “she is writing at the peak of her powers.” The New Yorker wrote: “The poems brilliantly display a poet’s insight, a mother’s warmth, and a mortal’s empathy. There is wry humor, too, and, amid much that is dark, there are fragments of hope.” Glück’s reading will be preceded by a talk by scholar and critic Willard Spiegelman, editor-in-chief of The Southwest Review, at 4:00 pm in the Cole Assembly Room. Co-sponsored by the Department of English.
Nalini Jones (’93) and Shauna Seliy
November 14 Wednesday 8:00 pm Amherst Books
A reading from two debut works of fiction: Jones’ What You Call Winter, a collection of inter-connected stories set in a Catholic suburb of Mumbai, which Brad Leithauser has praised for “the familiar virtues for which we keep returning to short stories: empathy, breadth, the joys in paced concealment and revelation”; and Seliy’s When We Get There, an elegiac coming-of-age novel set in the Pennsylvania coal country of the seventies, which Alexander Chee has called, “an exhilarating first novel about what is love and what is not love […] [W]ith it, Seliy shows herself to be one of our country's best new writers.”