Contemporary Writers Series  


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1997 - 1998 Featured Writers

Marilyn Nelson Sept. 15, 1997
Li-Young Lee Nov. 6, 1997
Stephen Dunn Feb. 19, 1998
Naomi Shihab Nye March 31, 1998
Marilyn Nelson - Sept. 15, 1997
Marilyn Nelson Realted Links:
Poets on the Line: Marilyn Nelson
The inaugural reader in the series will be Marilyn Nelson, author of six books of poetry, including her first "For the Body" (1978), "Mama's Promises" (1985) and "The Homeplace" (1990). Working with domestic settings, memories of her own childhood and her family's history, Nelson writes poems which range in style from traditional to free verse. Her early poetry gained her critical notice as "one of the major voices of a younger generation of black poets." "The Homeplace" has been praised for the range of voices in which the poet tells her stories. Nelson has co-written books and poems for children, including "The Cat Walked Through the Casserole" (with Pamela Espeland, 1984) and has translated poetry from Danish and German. She has been awarded National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and in 1991 was a finalist in poetry for the National Book Award. She is currently a professor of English at the University of Connecticut.
Li-Young Lee - Nov. 6, 1997
Li Young Lee Related Links:
NYU: Literature & Medicine Database: Annotations
Three Poems by Li-Young Lee
The son of exiled Chinese parents, Li-Young Lee was born in Djakarta, Indonesia, in 1957, and spent his early years wandering with his family through Southeast Asia to avoid political persecution. Lee's mother was a member of the Chinese royal family. His father at one time had been personal physician to Mao Zedong but left for Indonesia where he became a professor of English and Philosophy at Gamaliel University, which he helped found. Arrested by then-dictator Sukarno in a wave of anti- Chinese upset, the father and his family managed to escape and spent five years moving from Hong Kong to Macau and Japan before finally emigrating to the United States in 1964. Not surprisingly, given his personal history, his poetry deals with questions of identity, what it means to be Chinese, and broader questions of life in a world where the old idea of the nation state seems to be breaking down. Critics have compared his work to famous poets of the past such as John Keats, Rainier Maria Rilke and Theodore Roethke. Lee has taught creative writing at the Iowa Writer's Workshop, Northwestern University, the University of Oregon, and the University of Texas, Austin. He is also the recipient of many poetry awards, including a creative artist grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He was also featured on the PBS series The Power of the Word with Bill Moyers.
Stephen Dunn - Feb. 19, 1998
Stephen Dunn Related Links:
NYU: Literature & Medicine Database: Annotations
Stephen Dunn has won numerous writers' grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Academy of American Poets Award, the Theodore Roethke Prize, and other awards. His 1991 book, "Landscape at the End of the Century," was published by W.W. Norton, and his most recent collection, a retrospective volume entitled "New and Selected Poems: 1974-1994" celebrates over twenty years of his work. Critics have praised Dunn's "distinctive conversational voice, his ease of expression," and his "ability to offer insights without didacticism." His subjects include sensitive and compassionate examinations of family relationships and of relationships between men and women as well as treatments of everyday subjects that pivot "from levity to profoundness." Dunn himself defines poetry as "an act of coherence amidst the fragmentation of modern life."
Naomi Shihab Nye - March 31, 1998
Naomi Shihab Nye Related Links:
Austin Chronicle: Books: Many Voices
Naomi Shihab Nye began her poetic career when she was quite young. At age six, her first poem was published in a magazine called "Wee Wisdom." Since then, she has carried on a love affair with words that has taken her to several states within the United States where she has worked as a writer in the schools, and on a tour of the Mideast and Asia sponsored by the United States Information Agency. She has also been featured on Bill Moyer's PBS series The Power of the Word. Critics have praised her work for the clarity with which she creates poetry which is international in its subjects yet remains focused on the inner lives of contemporary men and women. Her books "Different Ways to Pray" and "Hugging the Jukebox" were both winners of the Voertman Poetry Prize from the Texas Institute of Letters, and she has also won three Pushcart Prizes for her work. "Hugging the Jukebox" and "This Same Sky" were both chosen as notable books by the American Library Association. A fine reader of her own work, she has produced three recordings of her original songs and poems and has read widely through the United States at campuses and writers festivals.