We welcome poets Tracy Zeman and John McCarthy to read from their most recent collections, Empire and Scared Violent Like Horses.
Tracy Zeman’s first full-length collection of poems, Empire, examines the European settlement and ecological devastation of the North American prairie. Her ecology-based serial poems employ collage, borrowed text and fractured narrative to probe the connections of humans to the natural world through the lens of culture, history and personal experience. Zeman uses image, juxtaposition and fragment to tell the story of a savage and intricate landscape, once conquered and now imperiled by forces such as climate change, invasive species and contemporary agricultural and land practices. Empire is a journey through an endangered world where beauty is enshrined and the lost, human and animal, is elegized.
Tracy Zeman’s poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Chicago Review, TYPO and other journals, and her book reviews have been published in Kenyon Review Online and Colorado Review. She has earned residencies from the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, Ox-Bow, and The Wild. She lives outside Detroit, Michigan, with her husband and daughter. Empire is her first full-length collection.
“Scared Violent Like Horses is the story of a ‘lost boy with a quiet ache’–a story about a boy and a young man who grows up amid the landscape of a vast yet specific Midwest filled with switchgrass, scarecrows, dead leaves, dirt, factories, and family and childhood people. It’s the people the speaker is really writing about–the speaker’s connection and disconnection with those who populate the landscape and the feeling of being different or not fully belonging. John McCarthy’s impulse is narrative but this impulse is struck by the lightning of his linguistic powers, as in the poem, ‘Switchgrass’ ‘A mangled cat mats the crankshaft and fan belt, / fur-shredded and soaked.’ Unusual images and figurative language are in abundance: ‘The cornfield’s tassels are wicks burning toward the sky and the fields / are sutured by utility poles marching like a procession of crosses . . .’ Ultimately, what the reader is left with is a stunning overlap of lost boy and lost landscape glimpsed through the lens of a gifted poet’s magical linguistic and storytelling abilities.” –Victoria Chang
John McCarthy is the author of one previous collection, Ghost Country, which was named a Best Poetry Book of 2016 by the Chicago Review of Books. McCarthy is the 2016 winner of The Pinch Literary Award in Poetry, and his work has appeared in Best New Poets 2015, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Passages North, Sycamore Review, Zone 3, and in anthologies such as New Poetry from the Midwest 2017. He received an MFA in Creative Writing from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and serves as an editor of RHINO magazine and the Quiddity international literary journal and public radio program.
We welcome contributors to Michigan State University Press’s anthology Respect: The Poetry of Detroit Music. featuring Dawn McDuffie, Sonya Pouncy, Keith Taylor, Ken Mikowloski, Dennis Hinrichsen, Brian Gilmore, Charlie Brice, Cal Freeman, Zilka Joseph and M.L. Liebler. Free and open to the public. A signing will follow. The event is free and open to the public.
About the book: While there have been countless books written about Detroit, none have captured its incredible musical history like this one. Detroit artists have forged the paths in many music genres, producing waves of creative energy that continue to reverberate across the country and around the world. This anthology both documents and celebrates this part of Detroit’s history, capturing the emotions that the music inspired in its creators and in its listeners. The range of contributors speaks to the global impact of Detroit’s music scene–Grammy winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, and poet laureates all come together in this rich and varied anthology.
We’re pleased to welcome Ellen Stone in support her collection What is in the Blood. The event is free and open to the public and a book signing will follow the event.
Ellen Stone was raised in the Appalachian Mountains above the north branch of the Susquehanna River in rural Pennsylvania. She taught public school in Kansas and Michigan for over thirty years. Ellen advises Poetry Club at Community High School and co-hosts a monthly poetry series in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her poems have appeared most recently in Halfway Down the Stairs, The Citron Review, Dunes Review, Pretty Owl Poetry, cahoodaloodaling, Switchback, Mantis, and are forthcoming in Choice Words: Writers on Abortion. Ellen is the author of What Is in the Blood (Mayapple Press, 2020) and The Solid Living World (Michigan Writers’Cooperative Press, 2013). Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart prize and Best of the Net.
We welcome critic Donna Rifkin in support of her book, The Sun and Her Stars: Salka Viertel and Hitler’s Exiles in the Golden Age of Hollywood.
About the book: The little-known story of screenwriter Salka Viertel, whose salons in 1930s and 40s Hollywood created a refuge for a multitude of famous figures who had escaped the horrors of World War ll.
Hollywood was created by its “others”; that is, by women, Jews, and immigrants. Salka Viertel was all three and so much more. She was the screenwriter for five of Greta Garbo’s movies and also her most intimate friend. At one point during the Irving Thalberg years, Viertel was the highest-paid writer on the MGM lot. Meanwhile, at her house in Santa Monica she opened her door on Sunday afternoons to scores of European émigrés who had fled from Hitler–such as Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht, and Arnold Schoenberg–along with every kind of Hollywood star, from Charlie Chaplin to Shelley Winters. In Viertel’s living room (the only one in town with comfortable armchairs, said one Hollywood insider), countless cinematic, theatrical, and musical partnerships were born.
Viertel combined a modern-before-her-time sensibility with the Old-World advantages of a classical European education and fluency in eight languages. She combined great worldliness with great warmth. She was a true bohemian with a complicated erotic life, and at the same time a universal mother figure. A vital presence in the golden age of Hollywood, Salka Viertel is long overdue for her own moment in the spotlight.
Donna Rifkind‘s reviews appear frequently in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times Book Review. She has also been a contributor to the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Times Literary Supplement, American Scholar, and other publications. In 2006 she was a finalist for the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle.
We’re pleased to welcome faculty members from the University of Michigan’s History Department as they present their recent publications. Copies of the titles will be available for purchase.
Howard Brick, et al., At the Center: American Thought and Culture in the Mid-Twentieth Century
Joshua Cole, Lethal Provocation: The Constantine Murders and the Politics of French Algeria
Juan Cole, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires
Henry Cowles, The Scientific Method: An Evolution of Thinking from Darwin to Dewey
Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof, Racial Migrations: New York City and the Revolutionary Politics of the Spanish Caribbean
Victoria Langland, et al., The Brazil Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Alexandra Minna Stern, Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate: How the Alt-Right Is Warping the American Imagination
Ellen Muehlberger, Moment of Reckoning: Imagined Death and Its Consequences in Late Ancient Christianity
Perrin Selcer, The Cold War Origins of the Global Environment
Julius Scott, The Common Wind: Afro-American Currents in the Age of the Haitian Revolution
Before Grace Lin was an award-winning and NY Times bestselling author/illustrator of picturebooks, early readers and middle grade novels, she was the only Asian girl (except for her sisters) going to her elementary school in Upstate NY. That experience, good and bad, has influenced her books—including her Newbery Honor WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON, her Geisel Honor LING & TING, her National Book Finalist WHEN THE SEA TURNED TO SILVER and her Caldecott Honor A BIG MOONCAKE FOR LITTLE STAR.
That experience also causes Lin to persevere for diversity: She is an occasional New England Public Radio commentator, she gave a TEDx talk titled “The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Bookshelf,” and she authored a PBSNewHour video essay called “What to do when you realize classic books from your childhood are racist?” She continues this mission with her two podcasts kidlitwomen* and Book Friends Forever. In 2016, Lin’s art was displayed at the White House and Lin was recognized by President Obama’s office as a Champion of Change for Asian American and Pacific Islander Art and Storytelling.
One MFA student of fiction and one of poetry, each introduced by a peer, will read their work. The Mark Webster Reading Series presents emerging writers in a warm and relaxed setting. We encourage you to bring your friends – a Webster reading makes for an enjoyable and enlightening Friday evening.
This week’s reading features Zahir Janmohamed and Joumana Altallal.
Zahir Janmohamed is a fiction writer from Sacramento, California.
Joumana Altallal is an Iraqi-Lebanese poet and educator. Before moving to Ann Arbor, she lived in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Sweetland’s Writer to Writer series lets you hear directly from University of Michigan professors about their challenges, processes, and expectations as writers and also as readers of student writing. Each semester, Writer to Writer pairs one esteemed University professor with a Sweetland faculty member for a conversation about writing.
Writer to Writer sessions take place at the Literati bookstore and are broadcast live on WCBN radio. These conversations offer students a rare glimpse into the writing that professors do outside the classroom. You can hear instructors from various disciplines describe how they handle the same challenges student writers face, from finding a thesis to managing deadlines. Professors will also discuss what they want from student writers in their courses, and will take questions put forth by students and by other members of the University community. If there’s anything you’ve ever wanted to ask a professor about writing, Writer to Writer gives you the chance.
Jenny Zhang’s story collection, Sour Heart (Lenny, 2017), centers on immigrants who have traded their endangered lives as artists in China and Taiwan for the constant struggle of life at the poverty line in 1990s New York City. It examines the many ways that family and history can weigh us down and also lift us up. From the young woman coming to terms with her grandmother’s role in the Cultural Revolution to the daughter struggling to understand where her family ends and she begins, to the girl discovering the power of her body to inspire and destroy, these seven stories illuminate the complex and messy inner lives of girls struggling to define themselves.
Zhang is also the author of the poetry collection Dear Jenny, We Are All Find. Her second collection of poetry, My Baby First Birthday, is forthcoming from Tin House. She is the recipient of the Pen/Bingham Award for Debut Fiction and the LA Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction.
This event is free and open to the public. Onsite book sales will be provided by Literati Bookstore.
UMMA is pleased to be the site for the Zell Visiting Writers Series, which brings outstanding writers each semester. The Series is made possible through a generous gift from U-M alumna Helen Zell (AB ’64, LLDHon ’13). For more information, please visit the Zell Visiting Writers Series webpage.
We welcome poet John James in support of his widely acclaimed debut collection The Milk Hours. The event is free and open to the public, a book signing will follow.
“‘Home is a question, ‘ writes John James in The Milk Hours, a remarkable debut in which sorrow leads to an astonishing intimacy with the world. The speaker is pensive but inquisitive, bewildered by the loss of a father and renewed by love and parenthood. Art, science, and travel, like mortality, become tethers to the elegant and chaotic truths of our world. The Milk Hours is a moving and urgently crafted testament to resilience and to beauty.” –Eduardo C. Corral
“The titular poem in John James’s debut collection refers not only to the luminous hour of infant nurture, although that is its occasion, but to the violent loss of his father, an event distant enough that ‘snowmelt smoothes the stone cuts of his name.’ James’s searing attention is upon the fleeting, the untethered, upon fecundity and decay, the cosmic and the molecular. These are also the poems of a young father’s daily life in the wane of empire, who wishes ‘to remember things purely, to see them / As they are, ‘ and who recognizes in what he sees our peril. ‘The end, ‘ he writes, ‘we’re moving toward it.’ James is, then, a poet of our precarious moment, and The Milk Hours is his gift to us.” –Carolyn Forché
John James is the author of Chthonic, winner of the 2014 CutBank Chapbook Award. His poems appear in Boston Review, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, Poetry Northwest, Best American Poetry 2017, and elsewhere. Also a digital collagist, his visual art is forthcoming in the Adroit Journal, Quarterly West, and LIT. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he is pursuing a PhD in English at the University of California, Berkeley.