Michener Center Presents Reading by America’s “Pugilistic Poet” August Kleinzahler

member_image_13229290248615022461Acclaimed poet August Kleinzahler will present a reading at a campus event hosted by the Michener Center for Writers on Nov. 6, 7:30 p.m. in the Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302.

 

Kleinzahler’s impressive body of work is a hybrid of high and low influences, mixing street-smart language and articulate cultural references with his unique brand of hard-boiled whimsy. His outsider stance has also gained him a reputation as a literary bad-boy, the “pugilistic poet,” duking it out with both pop culturists—somewhat famously, Garrison Keillor, over his folksy “Good Poems” anthology—and academics alike. Kleinzahler’s literary fame has built steadily over four decades.

 

He published a handful of poetry books with independent presses before New York publisher Farrar Straus & Giroux picked up his 1995 “Red Sauce, Whiskey and Snow.” They have published his last six books, as well as revived earlier work in new editions.  

 

Kleinzahler won the distinguished Griffin International Poetry Prize in 2004 for “The Strange Hours Travelers Keep,” and his new and selected poems, “Sleeping it Off in Rapid City” (2008), was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award. His prose also regularly appears in the London Review of Books and Slate, among others, and he has published a volume of meditative essays, “Cutty One Rock:  Low Characters and Strange Places, Gently Explained.” His newest book of poems is “The Hotel Oneira,” which the Guardian describes as “dreamlike yet savvy, among the most delightful flowerings of American poetry in our times.”

 

The event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the nearby UT San Jacinto Garage.

Lucie Brock-Broido to Speak on Campus Oct. 16

The UT Michener Center for Writers will host a reading by acclaimed poet Lucie Brock-Broido on Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 7:30 pm in the Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302, on UT campus.The event is free and open to the public.

Book Cover: Stay, IllusionBrock-Broido’s newest collection, Stay, Illusion, was a finalist in Poetry for the 2013 National Book Award.  Her previous collections include Trouble in Mind, The Master Letters, and A Hunger. Her poetry has appeared in many magazines and literary journals including The Paris Review, Parnassus:  Poetry in Review, The American Poetry Review, Poetry, The Nation, The New Republic, Best American Poetry, and The New Yorker. Director of Poetry in the School of Arts of Columbia University in NYC, she is also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, NEA support, and the Witter-Bynner Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Michener Center to Host Acclaimed Novelist Zadie Smith on March 27

The UT Michener Center for Writers will host a reading by acclaimed author Zadie Smith on Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 7:30 pm in the Blanton Auditorium on UT campus. The reading is free, requires no tickets, and is open to students and the public, but seating is limited to 300.

Zadie Smith, born in London in 1975 to an English father and Jamaican mother, made a stunning literary debut in 2000 with White Teeth, which was praised internationally and won numerous first book awards. Her third novel, On Beauty, won the 2006 Orange Prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker, and her latest, NW (for the London postcode area in which she was born and still resides), was named one of the New York Times’ Best Books of 2012. Granta magazine has twice listed her in its “20 Best Young British Novelists.” She divides her time between London and New York, where she on the Creative Writing faculty of NYU.

The Blanton Auditorium is located in the Edgar A. Smith Building in the Blanton Museum complex at MLK and Congress Avenue. Parking is available in the nearby Brazos garage.

Michener Center reading by 2013 residency author Colm Toibin

The University of Texas at Austin Michener Center for Writers will host a reading by our fall 2013 residency author, COLM TOIBIN, on Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 7:30 pm in the Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302.

Toibin, a native of Ireland, is the author of two novels shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Blackwater Lightship and The Master, as well as Brooklyn, 2009 Costa Novel of the Year, The Empty Family, a collection of stories, and The Testament of Mary, adapted to stage on Broadway this past year.  He is as well a prolific essayist and journalist.

The Peter O’Donnell building, formerly known as the ACES building, is on the southeast corner of 24th and Speedway on UT Campus.  Parking is available in the nearby UT garage at San Jacinto and 24th.

Peter LaSalle’s new novel looks at life in the shadows

M song smPeter LaSalle uses a single book-length sentence in his new novel, “Mariposa’s Song,” to tell of a twenty-year-old Honduran woman in the United States without documentation.  Mariposa is working as a B-girl and taxi dancer in a scruffy East Austin nightclub called El Pájaro Verde in 2005, and her story takes readers into the shadowy world that undocumented workers are too often forced to live in due to current immigration laws.

“‘Mariposa’s Song’ is a tragedy that rings distressingly true to the bone,” says novelist Madison Smartt Bell in a prepublication comment, “and never has Peter LaSalle’s prose sung so melodiously.”  And Publishers Weekly notes: “LaSalle’s new novel is brief, but it feels expansive with its continued breathlessness.”

The novel is published in The Americas Series from Texas Tech University Press.  Edited by Irene Vilar and with a national advisory board, the series issues mostly work by Latin American writers in translation—recent releases include Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal and Brazilian novelist Moacyr Scliar—but also the occasional original book on a Latino subject that reflects the series’ stated mission of “cultivating cross-cultural and intellectual exploration across borders and historical divides.”

LaSalle will talk about “Mariposa’s Song” at the Texas Book Festival on Saturday, Oct. 27 in a three-author panel discussion on immigration narratives, “Nunca Volver: New Lands, New Lives,” moderated by Melissa del Bosque.  An excerpt from the novel will be featured in the December issue of The Texas Observer.

PeteAs the Susan Taylor McDaniel Regents Professor in Creative Writing at UT, LaSalle teaches in both the English Department’s New Writers Project and the Michener Center for Writers. He’s the author of several books of fiction, including the story collection “Tell Borges If You See Him,” winner of the 2007 Flannery O’Connor Award, and his work has appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories, Best American Travel Writing, and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, among many others. A new short story collection, “What I Found Out About Her and Other Stories,” is forthcoming from University of Notre Dame Press.

ShelfLife@Texas asked LaSalle a few questions about “Mariposa’s Song.”

Did you do intensive research, or how did you come to know about the lives of undocumented workers?

In recent years I got to know quite a bit about the world of the undocumented. I did so through time spent in the Mexican bars and nightclubs that used to line 6th Street in East Austin and now have all but vanished—almost overnight, actually, in the sudden so-called gentrification of the area. I also spent some time in the home of an immigrant family in Austin’s Dove Springs neighborhood, where I went with a friend who volunteered as an English instructor to new arrivals from Latin America. I think that those experiences, meeting the people I did in the course of it all, made me begin to better understand what it’s like to survive in the United States without documentation.

So you decided to write about it?

Looking back on it, I guess I almost had to write about it.  I remember that I saw a rather absurd locally produced TV show celebrating the supposed urban wonders of downtown Austin.  One sequence showed a group of happy young professionals (does anybody say “yuppie” anymore?) who had just come out of a trendy bar at maybe 2 a.m., guys and girls. They were filmed standing on the sidewalk, gazing up at what they saw as the wondrous beauty of a scene—men working construction on a new downtown high-rise, the site lit up bright in the darkness. I realized that those people, and a lot just like them, had no idea what life was really like for such workers, that there was nothing romantic about their long hours of hard labor, sometimes even right through the night. Having worked a job in construction myself at least one summer during college, I could assure them of that. More significantly, many of those workers were probably without documentation, facing life every day with the added threats posed by our outdated and thoroughly contradictory immigration policies. I don’t know if that was exactly when I decided to start writing “Mariposa’s Song,” but it was one thing that contributed to my decision to use a novel to maybe tell others what I knew about such lives, including those of the young women who worked in the East Austin bars, hustling drinks for the owners or dancing with customers, like the old dime-a-dance arrangement.

And the entire novel is basically a single book-length sentence. Can you explain how that works?

Well, first of all, I hope it does work. I’ve written and published several short stories that use just a single sentence, though this is my first time trying it on something longer. The novel takes place in the course of one Saturday night in a rough East Austin nightclub, where my protagonist—a gentle, pretty, and very hopeful young woman from Honduras named Mariposa—works as a bar girl and gets in a nightmarishly bad situation when she meets the wrong guy at the decidedly wrong time, a smooth-talking Anglo from out of town who calls himself Bill. In starting to write, I soon found that a single continuing sentence captured perfectly the cadence of a night at that club, where the norteño and cumbia music the DJ plays goes on uninterrupted, no breaks between songs, flowing. It also seemed to capture the way Mariposa’s own thoughts meander through her mind, maybe her soothing personal song of herself, very much a music, too.

Well, it certainly seems like a fresh idea.

As said, I sure hope so.

An ear trained by Seuss, Eliot, Hendrix

Denis-adj

Denis Johnson, the legendary author of “Jesus’ Son, Tree of Smoke,” and “Train Dreams” and a frequent visitor to UT’s Michener Center for Writers, returns to campus on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 to give a free public reading at 7:30 p.m. in the Blanton Museum Auditorium.

Johnson has been a literary phenomenon since publication of his first poetry collection, “The Man Among the Seals,” at age 19. He grew up abroad and in suburban Washington, D.C., the son of a State Department official, and earned an MFA at the Iowa Writers Workshop, where he worked with the famously gifted and famously alcoholic Raymond Carver, his mentor for better and worse. Addiction threatened and fueled Johnson’s own bright start, as over the next dozen years he published two more poetry books—”Inner Weather” and “Incognito Lounge,” which was selected by Mark Strand for the National Poetry Series in 1982. Carver himself described Johnson’s verse as “nothing less than a close examination of the darker side of human conduct.”

In recovery, Johnson took up writing fiction, and his output grew prolific. His prose was populated with a cast of delusional to visionary anti-heroes recognizable from his poetry, perhaps most memorably in 1983’s “Angels” and his 1992 story collection,”Jesus’ Son,” both of which won him critical recognition and a near-cult following. But the stories of Johnson’s lost souls were always infused with hallucinatory brilliance and a Calvinistic sense of salvation. One reviewer put it succinctly, saying his language read “as if Camus had become a dope fiend and later found God.”

Later novels run the gamut from the self-described “California Gothic” of “Already Dead” (1998), to a slender and achingly beautiful portrait of grief, “The Name of the World” (2000) and a noir detective send-up serialized in Playboy magazine, “Nobody Move” (2009).  His haunting Vietnam magnum opus (600+ pages), “Tree of Smoke,” which won the 2007 National Book Award, gives backstory on more than half a dozen characters found in his earlier novels. “Train Dreams,” brought out in 2011 as a novella (but first published in Paris Review in 2002), packs no less of a punch in its 125 pages. Set in Prohibition-era Idaho, the novella captures the western landscape where Johnson has lived seasonally for years. It was a finalist for the un-awarded 2012 Pulitzer Prize in fiction. His collected poems are in “The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly,” and his journalistic pieces are gathered in “Seek: Reports from the Edges of America and Beyond.”

With the turn of the millennium, Johnson turned his genius to playwriting and was playwright in residence at Camp Santo/Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco, where his “Hellhound on My Trail” and “Shoppers Carried by Escalators into the Flames” were initially produced. His latest published plays, “Son of a Whore and Purvis,” are written in iambic pentameter, what might be an absurdly forced and archaic form in lesser hands, but proves yet another literary coup for Johnson, who once said that his ear “was trained by—in chronological order—Dr. Seuss, Dylan Thomas, Walt Whitman, the guitar solos of Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, and T. S. Eliot.”

Johnson and his wife have lived in Austin part-time over the last decade and a half, as he returned four times to teach at the Michener Center and held the 2006 Mitte Chair in Creative Writing at Texas State University in San Marcos. His ties to Austin and the university were further forged when in 2010 the Harry Ransom Center acquired his papers.

The reading is free to the public, but seating is limited. The Blanton Museum Auditorium is in the Edgar A. Smith Building on the west side of the museum complex, just north of the intersection of East MLK and Congress Avenue.  Parking is available in the nearby Brazos garage.

Warning: Dangerous Poet Ahead

FS Zapruder on street

Matthew Zapruder

Poet Matthew Zapruder visits campus this month as part of the Michener Center for Writers literary reading series. He will read at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 20, at the Avaya Auditorium, ACE 2.302, at an event which is free and open to students and the general public.

Zapruder’s books of poetry include “Come On All You Ghosts” and “The Pajamaist,” both from Copper Canyon, and “American Linden,” from Tupelo Press. The New York Times has praised his “razor eye for the remnants and revenants of modern culture,” and among his many honors are fellowships from the Lannan and Guggenheim Foundations, the 2007 William Carlos Williams Award of the Poetry Society of America, and the 2008 May Sarton Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Co-founder and editor of Seattle’s Wave Books, an independent publisher of innovative poetry in fine press and hand-made editions, Zapruder lives in San Francisco, where he is also a guitarist in the rock band The Figments.

Dean Young, W.S. Livingston Chair in Poetry at the Michener Center, calls Zapruder “a dangerous poet.”  “His poems,”  Young says, “escape velocity while also proving the calamity of gravity.”

Reviewer Nick Sturm says of his work, “Matthew Zapruder gently places what is ordinary about our lives into [his] poems and transforms them into cliffs off which we walk and, together, float away.”

WHITE CASTLE

c. Matthew Zapruder, from “Come On All You Ghosts”

In Wichita Kansas my friends ordered square burgers
with mysterious holes leaking a delicious substance
that would fuel us in all sorts of necessary beautiful ways
for our long journey eastward versus the night.
I was outside touching my hand to the rough
surface of the original White Castle. I was thinking
major feelings such as longing for purpose
plunge down one like the knowledge one
has been drinking water for one’s whole life
and never actually seen a well, and minor ones
we never name are always across the surface
of every face every three seconds or so rippling
and producing in turn other feelings. Oh regarder,
if I call this one green bee mating with a dragonfly
in pain it will already be too late for both of us.
I am here with that one gone, and now inside this one
I am right now naming feeling of having named
something already gone, and you just about to know
I saw gentle insects crawling in a line from a crack
in the corner of the base of the original White Castle
towards only they know what point in the darkness.

The ACE building is on the southeast corner of 24th and Speedway, and parking is available in the nearby UT garage at San Jacinto and 24th Street.

Yellow Birds Soar

Kevin Powers

Kevin Powers

Just four months after his graduation from UT’s Michener Center for Writers alum Kevin Powers is rocking the publishing world with his first novel. “The Yellow Birds” was released in the U.K. last week and Little, Brown and Company brings it out to U.S. readers next week, on Sept. 11. The book tells, in alternating chapters, the story of a young American GI’s experiences in Iraq and his difficult assimilation back home. Powers served as a machine-gunner in Mosel and Tal Afar in 2004-2005.

In effusive reviews from The New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani and London’s Guardian, Powers’ debut is compared to iconic books of our time and in literary history. “Its depiction of war,” writes Kakutani, “has the surreal kick of [Tim] O’Brien’s 1978 novel, ‘Going After Cacciato,’ and a poetic pointillism distinctly its own.” The Guardian, who long-listed the novel for its 2012 First Book Award, says, “while few will have expected the war in Iraq to bring forth a novel that can stand beside ‘All Quiet on the Western Front or The Red Badge of Courage,’ ‘The Yellow Birds’ does just that.”

YB 9:11:12Both reviews quote Powers’ hypnotic prose at length, calling his language “brilliantly observed,” and “the mark of an artist of the first order.” Little, Brown publisher Michael Pietsch, who acquired the manuscript last November and brought it into print in record time, calls the work “a voice from inside the fire.” Powers joined the Michener Center’s MFA program in 2009 as a poet and continues to write and publish poetry.

The U.S. launch will be celebrated with an event in Austin next Tuesday, Sept. 11, when the Michener Center for Writers, Texas Monthly, and the Texas Book Festival co-sponsor a conversation with Kevin Powers and TM editor Jake Silverstein—also a Michener alum— at Lambert’s Downtown BBQ from 6-8 p.m. An RSVP is required in advance through the magazine’s web page.

Third Time’s a Charm: College of Liberal Arts Awards Keene Prize for Literature to Michener Center Graduate Student

FIONA PHOTOFiona McFarlane, a Michener Center for Writers (MCW) graduate student at The University of Texas at Austin, has won the $50,000 Keene Prize for Literature for her story, “A Fortunate Man.”

The Keene Prize is one of the world’s largest student literary prizes. An additional $50,000 will be divided among three finalists.

McFarlane was a finalist in 2010 and again in 2011. This year she has finally taken the big prize. Her short story “A Fortunate Man” was chosen from more than 60 submissions in drama, poetry and fiction.

“The story demonstrates her talent for original characterization, vivid and sensuous description and subtle irony,” said Elizabeth Butler Cullingford, chair of the Department of English and the award selection committee. “All the judges praised her immaculately spare and elegant prose.”

McFarlane, who is graduating from MCW this spring, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Sydney, Australia, and her Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, England. Her work has appeared in a number of literary journals, including Best Australian Stories, Missouri Review, Zoetrope, and Dossier. In 2010 she won The Missouri Review Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize, and last month she won the Roy Crane Award for the Literary Arts. She is currently working on a novel.

In addition to McFarlane, the three finalists are:

Carolina Ebeid, MCW graduate, for her masterly collection of poems, “Small Beauty of the Forest.” Ebeid was also a finalist in 2011.

Corinne Greiner, graduate of the New School for Writers in the university’s Department of English, for her vivid and compelling creative nonfiction piece, “Blood Holler.”

Corey Miller, first year master of fine arts student at the MCW, for his witty and direct collection of poems, “How we say I love you in coal country.”

Members of the 2008 selection committee were: Cullingford; Randy Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts (ex officio); Brant Pope, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance; Dave Hamrick, director of The University of Texas Press; and Tom Zigal, novelist and speechwriter for The University of Texas System.

Established in 2006 in the College of Liberal Arts, the Keene Prize is named after E.L. Keene, a 1942 graduate of the university, who envisioned an award that would enhance and enrich the university’s prestige and support the work of young writers. Students submit poetry, plays and fiction or non-fiction prose.

Oscar Casares Celebrates Dr. Seuss’s Legacy with Special H-E-B Reading

2Reading@HEB3.5.12To celebrate the legacy of children’s author Dr. Seuss, a Brownsville H-E-B hosted a special in-store reading on Monday, March 5 with Oscar Casares, University of Texas at Austin associate professor in the Department of English. The Brownsville native and writer treated 30 first graders from Robert L. Martin Elementary—his alma mater— to a reading of “And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street!” and “I Can Read with My Eyes Shut.”

The children gave a shout out by helping him read the first book by adding the story’s refrain of “…ON MULBERRY STREET!” And Casares actually read “My Eyes Shut” twice, the second time so they could all read it together with one of their eyes shut.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of Dr. Seuss’s first children’s book, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street!” The event is part of H-E-B’s Read 3, an early childhood literacy initiative encouraging parents to read to their children three times a week and making books accessible and affordable for Texas families. The reading also kicked off a six-week long book drive to help H-E-B reach a 1 million-book goal.

Oscar Casares is the author of two critically acclaimed books of fiction, “Brownsville” and “Amigoland,” which have earned him fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Copernicus Society of America and the Texas Institute of Letters. His essays have appeared in the New York Times, Texas Monthly and NPR’s “All Things Considered.” In 2011, The University of Texas at Brownsville presented him with their Distinguished Alumnus Award. He now teaches and directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing at The University of Texas at Austin.