Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series at Pitt Will Begin 2006-07 Season Sept. 22 With Poetry Presentations, Discussion

Issue Date: 
September 18, 2006

Opening poetry performance, afternoon panel discussion, and evening reading celebrate 10th anniversary of Cave Canem, a retreat for African American poets

The 2006-07 Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series at the University of Pittsburgh will begin its ninth season Sept. 22 with a 10th-anniversary celebration of Cave Canem, a retreat for African American poets. The Black Took Collective (BTC)— featuring poets Duriel Harris, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Ronaldo Wilson—will open the series with a noon poetry performance in Frick Fine Arts Auditorium.

The celebration will continue with a 2 p.m. panel discussion on Black consciousness and contemporary poetry with poet and Pitt English Professor Toi Derricotte and poets Nikky Finney and Terrance Hayes in 501 Cathedral of Learning. Finney and Hayes will cap the day’s events with a poetry reading at 7 p.m. in Frick Fine Arts Auditorium.

Cofounded at the 1999 Cave Canem retreat by Harris, Martin, and Wilson, BTC is a group of young Black post-theorists who perform and write in hybrid experimental forms, embracing radical poetics and cutting-edge critical theory about gender, race, and sexuality. Their manifesto, “Call for Dissonance,” appears in FENCE, Fall/Winter 2001.

Harris, assistant professor of English at Saint Lawrence University, is a member of Douglas Ewart’s experimental jazz choir Inventions and a recent MacDowell Colony Fellow. The author of Drag (Elixir Press, 2003), she is at work on AMNESIAC, a media arts project funded in part by the University of South Carolina Beaufort Center for Black Studies Race and Technology Initiative. New poems from AMNESIAC are forthcoming in Mixed Blood, a series of conversations and poetry edited by C.S. Giscombe, William J. Harris, and Jeffrey T. Nealon; and Ringing Ear, a forthcoming anthology edited by Finney.

Martin, a Ph.D. candidate in English literature at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, was awarded Massachusetts Cultural Council Artists grants for poetry in 2002 and 2006. She is the author of the chapbook The Morning Hour (Poetry Society of America, 2003), and her poems have been published in Callaloo, Nocturnes, and The Encyclopedia Project.

Wilson is a visiting instructor at Mount Holyoke College, a Ford Dissertation Fellow, and a Ph.D. candidate at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He has held fellowships at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, Djerrassi Resident Artists Program, and the Yaddo Corporation. His work appears in Callaloo, Corpus, Harvard Review, Interim, and Gulf Coast, and is forthcoming in Chroma.

At Pitt, BTC will present a multimedia performance that explores the construction of a Black unconscious. Using written and aural language, sound, and imagery, the members of the collective enact poetries of inquiry that engage the psyche’s making of racial consciousness by conceptualizing unconsciousness.

Derricotte has written four books of poetry—The Empress of the Death House (Lotus Press, 1978), Captivity (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990), Tender (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997), and Natural Birth (Firebrand Books, 2000)—and the memoir The Black Notebooks: An Interior Journey (W.W. Norton & Co., 1997). Among her many awards are the First Dudley Randall Award for National Contributions to Literature (2001), the National Book Award Judge in Poetry (2001), the Paterson Poetry Prize (1998), the Pushcart Prize (1998, 1989), and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2004). In 1997, The Black Notebooks was named to The New York Times Book Review’s “Notable Books of the Year.”

Finney is the author of three books of poetry: On Wings Made of Gauze (Morrow, William & Co., 1985); Rice (Sister Vision Press, 1995), which won a PEN America Open Book Award; and The World Is Round (Innerlight Publishing, 2003). She also is the author of Heartwood (University Press of Kentucky, 1998), a collection of short stories, and is working on a novel. She has been published in several anthologies and was the scriptwriter for the documentary For Posterity’s Sake, the story of Harlem photographers Morgan and Marvin Smith. She is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of Kentucky.

Hayes is the author of Hip Logic (Penguin, 2002) and Muscular Music (Tia Chucha Press, 1999; Carnegie Mellon University Contemporary Classics, 2005). Wind in a Box (Penguin, 2006) was released in the spring of 2006. Hayes has been the recipient of many honors and awards, including a Whiting Writers Award, the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, a National Poetry Series award, a Pushcart Prize, a Best American Poetry selection, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. He is an associate professor of creative writing at Carnegie Mellon University.

The full 2006-07 Contemporary Writers Series season listing is below.

Sept. 22 The Black Took Collective
Duriel Harris, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Ronaldo Wilson
Noon, Frick Fine Arts Auditorium

Black Consciousness and Contemporary Poetry,
Panel Discussion
Toi Derricotte, Nikky Finney, and Terrance Hayes
2 p.m., 501 Cathedral of Learning

Nikky Finney
Poet, Rice (Sister Vision Press, 1995), On Wings Made of Gauze (Morrow, William & Co., 1985)

Terrance Hayes
Poet, Muscular Music (Tia Chucha Press, 1999), Wind in a Box (Penguin, 2006)
7 p.m., Frick Fine Arts Auditorium

Oct. 4 Gabeba Baderoon
Poet and winner of the 2005 DiamlerChrysler Award for Poetry.
Author of A Hundred Silences (Kwela/Snailpress, 2006) and The Dream in the Next Body (Kwela/Snailpress, 2005)
8:30 p.m., 501 Cathedral of Learning

Oct. 18 Dan Chaon
Novelist, You Remind Me of Me (Ballantine Books, 2004),
Fitting Ends (Northwestern University Press, 1996), and finalist
for the 2001 National Book Award, Among the Missing (Ballantine Books, 2001)
8:30 p.m., Frick Fine Arts Auditorium

Nov. 1 Drue Heinz Literature Prize Reading and Award Ceremony
Todd James Pierce, 2006 Drue Heinz Literature Prize Winner for Newsworld
(University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006), selected by Joan Didion
7:30 p.m., Frick Fine Arts Auditorium

Nov. 10 H. G. Bissinger
A discussion and screening with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
and author of Friday Night Lights (Publishing Mills, Inc., 1991)
7 p.m., Alumni Hall Auditorium

Nov. 11 Kathryn Harrison
Memoirist, The Kiss (Harper Perennial, 1998), Poison
(Harper Perennial, 1996), and The Mother Knot (Random House, 2004)
7 p.m., Frick Fine Arts Auditorium

March 22 Patrick McCabe
The 2006-07 William Block Sr. Writer; author of The Butcher Boy (Picador, 1992)
Breakfast on Pluto (Picador, 1998),and Call Me the Breeze (Faber and Faber, 2003); Man Booker Prize nominee
and Irish Times Literature Prize award winner
8:30 p.m., Frick Fine Arts Auditorium

April 4 Hybrid Vigor: American Poetry Out of School
Discussion: The Death of the “Poetic School”
with David St. John and Cole Swenson
2 p.m., 501 Cathedral of Learning

David St. John
Poet, Study for the World’s Body: New and Selected Poems
(Perennial, 1994) and The Face: A Novella in Verse (HarperCollins
Canada, 2004)

Cole Swenson
Poet, Goest (Alice James Books, 2004), Try (University of Iowa
Press, 1999), and The Book of a Hundred Hands (University
of Iowa Press, 2005)
8:30 p.m., Frick Fine Arts Auditorium

The Contemporary Writers Series is cosponsored by the Wyndham Garden Hotel-University Place and the University of Pittsburgh’s Book Center, University of Pittsburgh Press, and Pitt’s Creative Nonfiction and Film Studies programs.
For more information, call 412-624-6505 or visit www.english.pitt.edu.