2010 – 2011 Readings and Talks

Fanny Howe

September 29, 2010

Seminar 5:30 PM | Lannan Center
Reading 8:00 PM | McShain Lounge (Lg), McCarthy Hall

The Hut

— Fanny Howe

Up the hill is a hut made of sound
where two windows rhyme
and the tiles stay on
because they are nailed to a dream.
The dreamer wonders: Can this be mine?

The floor is solid and straight
and is amber from sap.
The walls don’t leak or let out heat
from gray embers in the grate.

This is the original home
at the heart of brutalist design.
No storm can slam its shape apart.
No thief can carry it off like a tent.
It dwells in ashen buildings where the present sleeps.

From Huffington Post
Read more about Fanny Howe

Tomaz Salamun

October 5, 2010

Seminar 5:30 PM | The Lannan Center
Reading 8:00 PM | Riggs Library

Read more about Tomaž Šalamun 

Michael Ondaatje

October 26, 2010

Seminar 5:30 PM | The Lannan Center
Reading 8:00 PM | The Presidents’ Room

Application For A Driving Lisence

— Michael Ondaatje

Two birds loved
in a flurry of red feathers
like a burst cottonball,
continuing while I drove over them.
I am a good driver, nothing shocks me.

Read more about Michael Ondaatje

Dinaw Mengestu

November 4, 2010

6:30 PM | Lannan Center (New North 408)

Dinaw Mengestu shares from his recently published novels The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears and How to Read the Air. This event is co-sponsored by Lannan Center, the English Department and the University Writing Program.

From The Beautiful Things Heaven Bears

— Dinaw Mengestu

Joseph’s already drunk when he comes into the store. He strolls through the open door with his arms open. You get the sense when watching him that even the grandest gestures he may make aren’t grand enough for him. He’s constantly trying to outdo himself, to reach new levels of Josephness that will ensure that anyone who has ever met him will carry some lingering trace of Joseph Kahangi long after he has left. He’s now a waiter at an expensive downtown restaurant, and after he cleans each table he downs whatever alcohol is still left in the glasses before bringing them back to the kitchen. I can tell by his slight swagger that the early dinnertime crowd was better than usual today.

Joseph is short and stout like a tree stump. He has a large round face that looks like a moon pie. Kenneth used to tell him he looked Ghanaian.

“You have a typical Ghanaian face, Joe. Round eyes. Round face. Round nose. You’re Ghanaian through and through. Admit it, and let us move on.”

Joseph would stand up then and theatrically slam his fist onto the table, or into his palm, or against the wall. “I am from Zaire,” he would yell out. “And you are a ass.” Or, more recently, and in a much more subdued tone: “I am from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Next week, it may be something different. I admit that. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll be from the Liberated Land of Laurent Kabila. But today, as far as I know, I am from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

Joseph kisses me once on each cheek after he takes his coat off.

Continue reading at NPR
Read more about Dinaw Mengestu

David Gewanter

November 9, 2010

Seminar 5:30 PM | The Lannan Center
Reading 8:00 PM | Copley Formal Lounge


— David Gewanter 

Your “x,” withdrawn, vengeful,
undertakes the spousal

rip-off. Quivering passion,
once neglected, murders love—

Kindness? “Justice”
is how greed frames
every divorce:

cupid’s backstabbing

From The Sleep of Reason (University of Chicago Press, 2003)
Read more about David Gewanter

Jennifer Natalya Fink

November 18, 2010
7:00 PM | Lannan Center (New North 408)

Georgetown professor Jennifer Natalya Fink will share excerpts from her recently published Pulitzer-nominated novel The Mikvah Queen.

The Mikvah Queen is a coming-of-age story with many disco twists. In the anti-everything hippie culture of early ‘80s Ithaca, New York, what rituals can a girl borrow, steal, or invent to make sense of puberty? Jane Schwartz, a lonely, Talmud-quoting, disco-worshipping eleven-year-old girl, builds a mikvah (Jewish ritual bath) in the porta-sauna of her middle-aged neighbor, Charlene Walkeson, in hopes of saving Charlene from the ravages of cancer. Will Jane also save her fierce, fragile self? Out of fragments of disco, feminism, cooking shows, Christian salvation narratives and Jewish law, Jane forges her own theology.

Read more about Jennifer Natalya Fink.

Stephanie Strickland

February 1, 2011

Seminar 5:30 PM | The Lannan Center
Reading 8:00 PM | The Lannan Center

A reception and book signing will follow.

Sea and Spar Between
Read more about Stephanie Strickland


Unfortunately, we do not have a recording of the seminar or the reading. Strickland and Lannan Center determined it would be misleading, and contradictory to Strickland’s philosophy, to post a video of her reading. To quote Strickland’s essay “Born Digital”:

Olufemi Terry

February 15, 2011

Seminar 5:30 PM | Lannan Center
Reading 8:00 PM | Copley Formal Lounge

Stickfighting Days

— Olufemi Terry

Thwack, thwack, the two of them go at it like madmen, but the boys around them barely stir with excitement. They both use one stick and we find this swordy kind of stickfighting a bit crappy. Much better two on one or two on two — lots more skill involved and more likelihood of blood.

I turn to Lapy. “Let’s go off and practise somewhere. This is weak.” Lapy likes any stickfighting, but almost always does what I say. His eyes linger ruefully on Paps and the other boy — don’t know his name but I see him a lot — and then he follows me.

I run almost full tilt into Markham and he gives me a grin, like we’re best pals and he’s been looking for me. Markham is my rival. We’ve beaten each other roughly the same number of times. Well, six to five in his favour, but one of my victories was a beauty, a flowing sequence of sticks that even I couldn’t follow before I smashed his nose nicely. Almost broke it. The satisfaction of Markham’s watery-eyed submission that day makes me smile easily back at him.

“Wanna mix it up?” Markham’s eyes aren’t smiling anymore; he won the last one and thinks he’s on a roll. I know better…

Continue reading at The Chimurenga Chronic
Read more about Olufemi Terry

Kwame Dawes

February 22, 2011

Seminar 5:30 PM | Lannan Center
Reading 8:00 PM | Copley Formal Lounge

Tornado Child

— Kwame Dawes

For Rosalie Richardson

I am a tornado child.
I come like a swirl of black and darken up your day;
I whip it all into my womb, lift you and your things,
carry you to where you’ve never been, and maybe,
if I feel good, I might bring you back, all warm and scared,
heart humming wild like a bird after early sudden flight.

I am a tornado child.
I tremble at the elements. When thunder rolls my womb
trembles, remembering the tweak of contractions
that tightened to a wail when my mother pushed me out
into the black of tornado night.

I am a tornado child,
you can tell us from far, by the crazy of our hair;
couldn’t tame it if we tried. Even now I tie a bandanna
to silence the din of anarchy in these coir-thick plaits.

I am a tornado child
born in the whirl of clouds; the centre crumbled,
then I came. My lovers know the blast of my chaotic giving;
they tremble at the whip of my supple thighs;
you cross me at your peril, I swallow light
when the warm of anger lashes me into a spin,
the pine trees bend to me swept in my gyrations.

I am a tornado child.
When the spirit takes my head, I hurtle into the vacuum
of white sheets billowing and paint a swirl of color,
streaked with my many songs.

From Midland (Ohio University Press, 2001)
Read more about Kwame Dawes

Jericho Brown and Tom Healy

March 15, 2011

Seminar 5:30 PM | Lannan Center
Reading 8:00 PM | Bioethics Research Library


— Jericho Brown

I wish you tamed. I wish what you fear—
A night alone in the forest.

A father who leaves you there. I wish you
Were ten years old again. And in love

With Marvin Gaye. I wish you saw his daddy
Shoot him. I wish you asthma. An attack

In the field. A lump in your chest. A doctor
Who won’t touch it. I wish you’d live forever

Afraid of dying. See the circus and be content.
Animals crawling like infants for the men

Who made them. I wish you would
Sniff a man. I wish his whip

Sharper than fangs. I wish you could know
How bite-less I feel, the mouth

I don’t close, his head in my throat.

From Please (New Issues, 2009)
Read more about Jericho Brown

You Two?

— Tom Healy

We offer in evidence
our grocery list—

its crabbed scribbled
archeology of hunger

shorthand reckoning
of how we’ve settled

whether the week

augured skim milk
or vodka

cantaloupe or ice cream
little proclamations

smudged on the back
of an envelope

his marks and mine
a currency

the exchange of whim
and sustenance

an account not just
of comfort and ordinary

cravings but how
we’ve construed

the necessities
of rescue and surrender.

Read more about Tom Healy

Ilya Kaminsky, Valzhyna Mort and Nikola Madzirov

March 29, 2011

Seminar 5:30 PM | Lannan Center
Reading 8:00 PM | Bioethics Research Library

From Deaf Republic: 3

— Ilya Kaminsky

Don’t forget this: Men who live in this time remember the price of each bottle of vodka. Sunlight on the canal outside the train-station. With the neighbor’s ladder, my brother Tony “Mosquito” and I climb the poplar in the public garden with one and a half bottles of vodka and we drink there all night. Sunlight on a young girl’s face, asleep on the church steps. Tony recites poems, forgets I cannot hear. I watch the sunlight in the rearview mirror of trolleys as they pass.

Don’t forget this. There sat in the poplar two brothers, the barber and podiatrist, in love with the same woman. They drank there and recited each poem they knew. Not a soul noticed: notasoul.

From Poetry (May 2009)
Read more about Ilya Kaminsky

A Cell

— Nikola Madzirov

She swallowed the key

and left the bars
between us
without answering
which of the two rooms
was a cell

“This one” we said
simultaneously when
our finger tips
were touching
in the keyhole.

Read more about Nikola Madzirov 

A Poem About White Apples

— Valzhyna Mort

white apples, first apples of summer,
with skin as delicate as a baby’s,
crispy like white winter snow.
your smell won’t let me sleep,
this is how dead men
haunt their murderers’ dreams.
white apples,
this is how every july the earth
gets heavier under your weight.

and here only garbage smells like garbage . . .
and here only tears taste like salt . . .

we were picking them
like shells in green ocean gardens,
having just turned away from mothers’ breasts
we were learning
to get to the core of everything with our teeth.

so why are our teeth like cotton wool now . . .

white apples,
in black waters, the fishermen,
nursed by you, are drowning.

Translated by Franz Wright and Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright

From Factory of Tears (Copper Canyon Press, 2008)
Read more about Valzhyna Mort