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Creative Writing Conference
Thinking Its Presence: The Racial Imaginary

March 12-14, 2015

Creative Writing Conference
Thinking Its Presence: Race & Creative Writing

Creative Writing Conference

Conference Speakers

Dorothy Wang - Keynote Speaker

Associate Professor

Williams College, Williamstown, MA

Department of American Studies

Visit Dorothy Wang's website.

Dorothy Wang is an Associate Professor in the American Studies Program and a Faculty Affiliate in the Department of English and Comparative Literature Program at Williams College. Her main areas of research are twenty-first and twentieth-century English poetry and poetics, avant-garde minority writing, Asian American poetry, and Anglophone Chinese diasporic literature. She previously taught in the English departments of Northwestern University and Wesleyan University.

Thinking Its PresenceThinking Its Presence
Form, Race, and Subjectivity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry

When will American poetry and poetics stop viewing poetry by racialized persons as a secondary subject within the field? Dorothy J. Wang makes an impassioned case that now is the time. Thinking Its Presence calls for a radical rethinking of how American poetry is being read today, offering its own reading as a roadmap.

While focusing on the work of five contemporary Asian American poets—Li-Young Lee, Marilyn Chin, John Yau, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, and Pamela Lu—the book contends that aesthetic forms are inseparable from social, political, and historical contexts in the writing and reception of all poetry. Wang questions the tendency of critics and academics alike to occlude the role of race in their discussions of the American poetic tradition and casts a harsh light on the double standard they apply in reading poems by poets who are racial minorities. This is the first sustained study of the formal properties in Asian American poetry across a range of aesthetic styles, from traditional lyric to avant-garde. Wang argues with conviction that critics should read minority poetry with the same attention to language and form that they bring to their analyses of writing by white poets.

John Keene - Featured Speaker

Associate Professor

Rutgers University, Newark, NJ

Department of African American & African Studies, Department of English

Visit John Keene's website.

John Keene is the author of the award-winning novel Annotations (New Directions), and, with artist Christopher Stackhouse, of the poetry collection Seismosis (1913 Press). He has published his fiction, poetry, essays, and translations in a wide array of journals, and his honors include numerous fellowships, including a 2003 New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship in Poetry and a 2005 Whiting Foundation Award in Fiction and Poetry. A longtime member of the Dark Room Writers Collective of Cambridge and Boston, and a Graduate Fellow of Cave Canem, he has taught at Brown University; Northwestern University, where he served as Director of the undergraduate Creative Writing Program and Acting Co-Director of the Masters in Creative Writing Program; and other institutions. He served on the inaugural juries for the Cave Canem Second Book Prize and the Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize, both published by Northwestern University Press. He also is a member of the planning and organizational committee for the African Poetry Book Series, under the auspices of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's African Poetry Book Fund and Prairie Schooner. His introduction to the first published English translation of Brazilian writer Hilda Hilst's writing, her novel The Obscene Madame D appeared in Fall 2012 (Nightboat Books/A Bolha Editora); his translation from the Portuguese of Hilst's novel Letters from a Seducer will appear in Fall 2013 (Nighboat Books/A Bolha Editora).

Sherwin Bitsui - Featured Speaker

University of Montana Hugo Visiting Writer Fellowship

Visit Sherwin Bitsui's website.

Sherwin Bitsui is the author of two books of poetry: Shapeshift (University of Arizona Press, 2003) and Flood Song (Copper Canyon Press, 2009).  He has published his poems in Narrative, Black Renaissance Noir, American Poet, The Iowa Review, LIT, and elsewhere. His poems were also anthologized in Between Water & Song and Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century. His recent honors include a 2011 Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship and a 2011 Native Arts & Culture Foundation Arts Fellowship. He is also the recipient of the 2010 PEN Open Book Award, an American Book Award and a Whiting Writers Award. Bitsui is originally from White Cone, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation. Currently, he lives in Tucson, Arizona. He is Dine of the Todich'ii'nii (Bitter Water Clan), born for the Tl'izilani (Many Goats Clan). 

Jess Row - Featured Speaker

Associate Professor

The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ

Visit Jess Row's website.

Jess Row is the author of two collections of short stories, The Train to Lo Wu and Nobody Ever Gets Lost. His novel Your Face in Mine, about racial reassignment surgery, will be published by Riverhead in summer 2014. His fiction has received a Whiting Writers Award, two Pushcart Prizes, a PEN/O. Henry Award, and has appeared three times in The Best American Short Stories. He's a frequent contributor to Bookforum and The New York Times Book Review; his recent writings on race include "White Flights: American Fiction's Racial Landscape," in Boston Review, and "To Whom It May Concern," in Claudia Rankine's anthology The Racial Imaginary (Fence Books, 2014). He teaches at the College of New Jersey, the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and the City University of Hong Kong.

Kimiko Hahn - Featured Speaker


Queens College, City University of New York

Kimiko Hahn is the author of nine collections and often finds that disparate sources have triggered her material—whether Flaubert’s sex-tour in The Unbearable Heart, an exhumation in The Artist's Daughter or classical Japanese forms in The Narrow Road to the Interior.   Rarified fields of science prompted her latest collections Toxic Flora and forthcoming Brain Fever (both W.W. Norton).  Collaborations have led her to film and the visual arts.  Hahn’s most recent award was a Guggenheim Fellowship and she is a distinguished professor in the MFA Program in Creative Writing & Literary Translation at Queens College, City University of New York.

Meena Alexander - Featured Speaker

Professor of English

Graduate Center and Hunter College, City University of New York

View Meena Alexander's website

Meena Alexander’s works have been widely anthologized and translated. They include the newly published Birthplace with Buried Stones, her seventh book of poetry, Illiterate Heart and Raw Silk. She has edited Indian Love Poems and published a critically acclaimed memoir Fault Lines (picked as one of Publishers Weekly's Best Books of the year). Her awards include those from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Fulbright Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation for a residency at Bellagio, Arts Council of England and the American Council of Learned Societies as well as the PEN/ Open Book Award, Glenna Luschesi Award from Prairie Schooner and the Martha Walsh Pulver Fellowship for a poet (Yaddo). She has served as an Elector, American Poets Corner, Cathedral of St. John the Divine. She is Distinguished Professor of English at the Graduate Center and Hunter College, City University of New York.

Photo credit: Marion Ettlinger

Kathryn Shanley - Featured Speaker


Native American Studies, University of Montana

Kathryn Shanley teaches in Native American Studies at the University of Montana and serves as Special Assistant to the Provost for Native American and Indigenous Education. She earned an MA (Diaspora Literature) and a Ph.D. in English with a specialization in Native American literature at the University of Michigan in 1987. An enrolled member of the Ft. Peck Assiniboine (Nakoda) Tribe, Dr. Shanley grew up on the reservation. Her research interests include the work of James Welch, Blackfeet/Gros Ventre writer, gender issues in Indigenous studies, Native American religious autobiography, and Indigenous Knowledge-based theory. She is the University of Montana project director for a collaboration with the Sami Studies Center at the University of Tromso, Norway, and also collaborates with faculty at Maori Studies, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand. Dr. Shanley serves as the Ford Foundation Diversity Fellowship regional liaison and on boards for National Academy of Sciences Fellowships, the executive committee of the Modern Language Association, Division of American Indian Literatures, and (for eight years) on the American Indian Graduate Center. Recognition of her leadership extends to her inclusion in Notable Native Americans and the Dictionary of American Indian Women. Before coming to the University of Montana in 1999 to become the first chair of Native American Studies, Dr. Shanley previously held positions at Cornell University and the University of Washington. She also served as the 2011-12 NAISA President.

University of Montana

Creative Writing Conference

University of Montana | Missoula, MT 59812

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