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U. of I. Creative Writing Program inaugurates reading program, craft talk

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Creative Writing Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is creating some new traditions.

On Monday (Nov. 7), two new members of the faculty, novelist and documentary-maker LeAnne Howe, and poet-slammer-author Tyehimba Jess, will kick off the new Faculty Reading Program.

On Nov. 14, Jess and another faculty newcomer, Rigoberto González, a California-born Chicano poet, children’s writer and novelist, will inaugurate the Creative Writing Craft Talk with a discussion of each other’s National Poetry Series-winning book.

Free and open to the public, the readings and the craft talk will begin at 5 p.m. in the Author’s Corner of the Illini Union Bookstore, 809 S. Wright St., Champaign.

Howe will read from “Evidence of Red,” her recently published collection of poems and stories, and from her first novel, “Shell Shaker”; Jess will read from “leadbelly,” his first book of poetry.

“Shell Shaker” won an American Book Award in 2002 from the Before Columbus Foundation. The French translation of that book, titled “Equinoxes Rouges,” was the 2004 finalist for the Prix Medici, one of France’s top literary awards.

Howe is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Born and educated in Oklahoma, she writes fiction, creative nonfiction, plays, poetry and screenplays that primarily deal with American Indian experiences. She also is the founder and director of WagonBurner Theatre Troop; her plays have been produced in Los Angeles and New York City, and in Colorado, Maine, New Mexico and Texas.

Howe is the screenwriter and on-camera narrator for “Indian Country Dairies: Spiral of Fire,” a 90-minute PBS documentary scheduled to be broadcast this month.

Howe’s new novel, “Miko Kings,” about Indian baseball and set in Ada, Okla., in 1903 and in 1969, is forthcoming.

Jess’ “leadbelly,” a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series, recently was published by Verse Press. A native of Detroit and a Cave Canem poetry program and New York University alumni, Jess received a literature fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2004 and was a 2004-05 Winter Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. He won the 2001 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Poetry Award, an Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship in Poetry for 2000-01, and the 2001 Chicago Sun-Times Poetry Award.

Jess’ fiction and poetry have appeared in “Soulfires: Young Black Men on Love and Violence”; “Slam: The Competitive Art of Performance Poetry”; “Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam”; “Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the Twenty-first Century”; “Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art”; and “Dark Matter 2: Reading the Bones.” His first book of nonfiction, “African American Pride: Celebrating Our Achievements, Contributions, and Legacy,” was published in December 2003.

González is the author of four books: “So Often the Pitcher Goes to Water Until It Breaks,” a 1998 National Poetry Series selection; two bilingual children’s books, “Soledad Sigh-Sighs/Soledad Suspiros” and “Antonio’s Card/La Tarjeta de Antonio”; and a novel, “Crossing Vines,” which received ForeWord Magazine’s Editor’s Choice for Fiction Book of the Year Award in 2004.

González is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and various international artists’ residencies, including in Brazil, Costa Rica, Scotland and Spain.

González is a member of PEN and of the National Book Critics Circle. He reviews books by Latina/o authors for a Texas newspaper, the El Paso Times, and he is a contributing editor to Poets and Writers magazine.

The events are sponsored by the Creative Writing Program in the department of English.