2021-2022 Academic Year
Carolyn Forché Reading and Conversation recorded on April 5, 2022
Carolyn Forché Craft Talk recorded on April 7, 2022
Renowned as a "poet of witness," Carolyn Forché is the author of five books of poetry. Forché's first volume, Gathering the Tribes, winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, was followed by The Country Between Us, The Angel of History, and Blue Hour. Her most recent collection is In the Lateness of the World. She is also the author of the memoir What You Have Heard is True (Penguin Random House, 2019), a devastating, lyrical, and visionary memoir about a young woman's brave choice to engage with horror in order to help others, which was nominated for the 2019 National Book Awards. She has translated Mahmoud Darwish, Claribel Alegria, and Robert Desnos. Her famed international anthology, Against Forgetting, has been praised by Nelson Mandela as "itself a blow against tyranny, against prejudice, against injustice," and is followed by the 2014 anthology The Poetry of Witness. In 1998 in Stockholm, she received the Edita and Ira Morris Hiroshima Foundation for Peace and Culture Award for her human rights advocacy and the preservation of memory and culture.
Heid E. Erdrich Reading and Conversation recorded on February 15, 2022
Heid E. Erdrich Craft Talk recorded on February 17, 2022
Heid E. Erdrich is the author of seven collections of poetry. Her writing has won fellowships and awards from the National Poetry Series, Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Minnesota State Arts Board, Bush Foundation, Loft Literary Center, First People’s Fund, and other honors. She has twice won a Minnesota Book Award for poetry. Heid edited the 2018 anthology New Poets of Native Nations from Graywolf Press which won an American Book Award. Her most recent poetry collection, Little Big Bully, won the Balcones Prize. Heid grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota and is Ojibwe enrolled at Turtle Mountain.
Kiese Laymon Reading and Conversation recorded on November 9, 2021
Kiese Laymon is a powerhouse of a writer, whose fierce honesty necessitates that readers open their hearts and their eyes. Laymon is a Black southern writer from Jackson, Mississippi, who is is the author of the genre-bending novel, Long Division, the essay collection, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, and the bestselling memoir, Heavy. In Heavy, Laymon “fearlessly explores what the weight of a lifetime of secrets, lies, and deception does to a black body, a black family, and a nation teetering on the brink of moral collapse.”
Author Reginald Dwayne Betts writes of Laymon’s work:
"Kiese crafts the most honest and intimate account of growing up black and southern since Richard Wright's Black Boy. Circumventing the myths about blackness, he writes something as complex and fragile as who we is. An insider's look into the making of a writer, Heavy is part memoir and part look into the books that turned a kid into a story teller. Heavy invites us into a black South that remembers that we loved each other through it all. In “Nikki-Rosa,” Nikki Giovanni wrote that ‘black love is black wealth.’ This book is the weight of black love, and might we all be wealthy by daring to open up to it."
Heavy: An American Memoir, won the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, the 2018 Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose, the Austen Riggs Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media, and was named one of the 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years by The New York Times. The audiobook, read by the author, was named the Audible 2018 Audiobook of the Year. Laymon is the recipient of 2020-2021 Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard. Laymon is at work on several new projects, including the long poem, Good God, the horror comedy, And So On, the children’s book, City Summer, Country Summer and the film Heavy: An American Memoir. He is the founder of “The Catherine Coleman Literary Arts and Justice Initiative,” a program aimed at getting Mississippi kids and their parents more comfortable reading, writing, revising, and sharing.
Mai Der Vang Reading and Conversation recorded on October 12, 2021
Mai Der Vang is the winner of the LAI’s 2021 Sister Mariella Gable prize. Her book Yellow Rain is the 20th book in the series, a collaboration between the Literary Arts Institute at the College of St. Benedict and Graywolf Press, an independent press located in Minneapolis.
Graywolf Press describes the book as:
“A staggering work of documentary, poetry, and collage, Mai Der Vang reopens a wrongdoing that deserves a new reckoning. As the United States abandoned them at the end of its war in Vietnam, many Hmong refugees recounted stories of a mysterious substance that fell from planes during their escape from Laos starting in the mid-1970s. This substance, known as “yellow rain,” caused severe illnesses and thousands of deaths. And then, to the world’s astonishment, American scientists argued that yellow rain was the feces of honeybees defecating en masse—still held as the widely accepted explanation. The truth of what happened to the Hmong, to those who experienced and suffered yellow rain, has been ignored and discredited.
Integrating archival research and declassified documents, Yellow Rain calls out the erasure of a history, the silencing of a people who at the time lacked the capacity and resources to defend and represent themselves. In poems that sing and lament, that contend and question, Vang restores a vital narrative in danger of being lost, and brilliantly explores what it means to have access to the truth and how marginalized groups are often forbidden that access.”
Mai Der Vang is an editorial member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle. Her poetry has appeared in the New Republic, Poetry, and the Virginia Quarterly Review, and her essays have been published in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and the Washington Post. Her debut collection, Afterland, received the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. She lives in California.