Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series Opens With Reading by U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey

Issue Date: 
September 17, 2012

Natasha TretheweyCelebrating its thirteenth year of activism, critical thought, and literature at Pitt, the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series will launch its 2012-13 season with a reading by U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey at 8:30 p.m. Sept. 24 in the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium. This event, and all others in the 2012-13 Writers Series season, is free and open to the public.

This year’s season will feature six nationally acclaimed journalists, poets, and writers from diverse backgrounds who will share their unique perspectives on art and literature. Speakers in this year’s series include Justin Torres, Pitt’s 2012 Fred R. Brown Literary Award winner, and Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Pitt’s 2012-13 William Block Senior Writer.

The season will commence with a reading by Trethewey, the 19th U.S. poet laureate who is also the current state poet laureate of Mississippi. A native of Gulfport, Miss., Trethewey is the daughter of an African American mother and a white Canadian father, who were married illegally at the time of her birth. She attests that her experiences as an interracial child growing up in the American South during the 1960s and 70s have played a profound role on her creative works.

Trethewey is the author of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006). Her other literary works include the poetry collections Thrall: Poems (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012), Bellocq’s Ophelia (Graywolf Press, 2002), and Domestic Work (Graywolf Press, 2000) as well as the nonfiction book Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (University of Georgia Press, 2010). Her work has appeared in such national publications as The American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, and The Southern Review.

Trethewey is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, she has been honored with the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize, the Lillian Smith Book Award, and the Cave Canem Foundation Poetry Prize. She is the recipient of fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Trethewey earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at the University of Georgia, a Master of Arts degree in English and creative writing from Hollins University, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry from the University of Massachusetts. 

All events in the 2012-13 Writers Series season will be held at 8:30 p.m. in the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium. A complete schedule, with speaker bios, follows.

Sept. 24    

Natasha Trethewey, poet and nonfiction writer, opens the 2012-13 season with a reading from her Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection and other award-winning literary works.

Oct. 11     

Justin Torres, fiction writer, is a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and a recipient of the Rolón United States Artist Fellowship in Literature. Torres’ debut novel, We The Animals (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), received national acclaim in numerous publications, including The New York Times and Kirkus Reviews, and his work has appeared in such literary magazines as Granta and Tin House.

Torres is Pitt’s 2012 Fred R. Brown Literary Award winner, which recognizes fiction writers in the early stages of their careers. It carries a financial honorarium and is underwritten by Pitt alumni Fred R. (A&S ’71) and Melanie Brown (CGS ’86, KGSB ’90, ’93).

Nov. 8      

Paul Yoon, fiction writer, is the author of the novel, Once The Shore (Sarabande Books, 2009), which was honored with the John C. Zacharis First Book Award in 2009. His honors and distinctions include an O. Henry Award for short fiction, and his work has appeared in such publications as One Story, Ploughshares, and the Best American Short Stories of 2006.

Feb. 26     

Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, nonfiction writer, is the author of Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America (Little, Brown and Company, 2011), which was named among the 100 Notable Books of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review. Rhodes-Pitts has been honored with awards from the Rona Jaffe Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts and her work has appeared in such publications as Harper’s, Vogue, and Essence Magazine.

Rhodes-Pitts is Pitt’s 2012-13 William Block Senior Writer, which recognizes the career accomplishments of fiction and nonfiction writers as well as poets. The award is named for William Block Sr., the late publisher of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

March 21

Eileen Myles, poet and fiction writer, is a Professor Emerita of Writing and Literature at the University of California at San Diego. She is the author of 19 books, including Inferno: A Poet’s Novel (OR Books, 2010), which won the 2010 Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Fiction, and the collection of essays The Importance of Being Iceland (Semiotext(e), 2009), which won a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant.

April 15

Anne Fadiman, editor and nonfiction writer, is the current Francis Writer-in-Residence at Yale University and the author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997), which won a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1997. She is the founding editor of the Library of Congress magazine Civilization and was editor of the Phi Beta Kappa quarterly magazine The American Scholar. Fadiman’s essays and articles have appeared in Harper’s, The New Yorker, and The New York Times.

The University of Pittsburgh Writing Program and Book Center cosponsor the 2012-13 Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series season. For more information, contact 412-624-6508 or visit www.pghwriterseries.wordpress.com.