Tuesday, September 12, 2017

NPR Audio: The Unconventional Poetry Of Tyehimba Jess

Listen to an interview with Tyehimba Jess by NPR's Dan Wanschura, first aired July 15, 2017.

Tyehimba Jess, who won this year's Pulitzer Prize for poetry, will read from his work and discuss its origins as part of a celebration of spoken word poetry, which will also feature readings by UAlbany students, at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 14 in the Main Theatre of the Performing Arts Center, on UAlbany’s Uptown campus.

Earlier that day at 4:15 p.m. Jess will hold an informal seminar in the Recital Hall in UAlbany’s Performing Arts Center. More details

Free and open to the public, the events are cosponsored by the New York State Writers Institute, UAlbany’s Student Association, Division of Student Life, and The Writing Center of the English Department.

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Interview: James Hart, author of "Lucky Jim"

Author James Hart did not want to harm anyone else in the writing of his heartbreaking memoir "Lucky Jim," (Cleis Press, 238 pages, $17.95), which he will read from Thursday at the State Museum, part of the New York State Writers Institute fall programming.

"But I also knew I needed to be completely honest," said Hart, who grew up in Troy, "and that was going to be tricky. Many of the people in my story were famous. I love and care about a lot of them."

One of the most important people in his life he did not want to harm was his ex-wife, singer Carly Simon. They were married for 20 years.

"I called her early on in the writing of the book," he said in an interview. "I was terrified that my words were going to hurt her and she said, 'I don't care. Just write the truth. That's all I wanted from you from day one.' "

The book, which was released in April, begins on a train platform in Hudson. Hart had just spent the day with his severely handicapped son, Eamon, at a camp for disabled children, and now he was returning to New York City, where he lived. Simon was standing on the same platform with a mutual friend of Hart's, who introduced the two of them.

"I was single at the time, and I knew she was somebody, an actress maybe. I was stunned by her beauty right away," he said. "There were 20 other people at the Hudson train station staring at her as well. They were staring at the celebrity Carly Simon. They knew who she was, but I was looking at her as a beautiful woman."

Hart writes honestly about his love for Simon and the happiness they had together, but he also writes about his many addictions and his increasing struggle to confront his sexuality.

"Carly has read the drafts of the book all along. I know it's difficult for her to read about her then-husband exploring the gay world with crack and cocaine. That's not something Carly would be rushing to read, but she understands that's the story. The two of us were so right together and so wrong, so perfectly matched and so perfectly unmatched."

Hart admits that he and Simon had options. "I suppose I could have stayed in the closet and maintained some sort of deep relationship with Carly, but that would have been extraordinarily unfair to both of us. We really tried hard to keep our lives together, but in the end Carly and I couldn't live that kind of lie."

In the writing of this book Hart came to realize how the various parts of his life were connected in ways he had never thought about before.

"Despite all my psychological defenses, I've been attracted to honesty my whole life," he said. "As a young man, my trip to the seminary to become a priest was a search for honesty and discovery. I've had to do a lot of 12-step work on myself, not because I wanted to, but because I had to in order to survive."

Hart writes about a lot of personal pain in this book. His early life was filled with brutal violence on a daily basis delivered by his alcoholic father. His son suffered from a seizure disorder that brought about many physical challenges every day that made loving him difficult, and Hart is unsparing in writing about the degradations he brought on himself with alcohol, drugs and sex.

When Hart met Simon, he was an insurance salesman, an everyman. When they were married, he entered the elite world of Martha's Vineyard with its fame and celebrity. He met the likes of Jackie Kennedy, Bill and Hillary Clinton, film director Mike Nichols and author William Styron.

"Carly and I didn't have a thousand celebrity friends. We had 10 celebrity friends. We weren't searching for celebrity friends," he said. "The truth is a lot of celebrities are people you really don't want to hang out with."

Hart believes fame and celebrity was not the great gift of his life; it was his son.

"On a daily basis, Eamon displayed a terrifying grace, even though he was physically broken. I didn't want to go there. He forced me to find the ways to love him, and he found the ways to love me."
The word "lucky" in the title refers to the many mentors and friends who have helped to save and shape him into the man he is today. "Mike Nichols and Bill Styron didn't have to be my friend, but they were. They didn't need me. Bill Kennedy has also been a close friend of mine since 1974, long before he was the famous writer. He's helped a lot in my development as a writer. He's very rare. Once you're his friend, he never lets a friend go. He's an incredibly positive guy, and he has a great deal of humility."

Hart said he is looking forward to his reading on Thursday.[Editor's note: James Hart visited the NYS Writers Institute on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017.]

"It's kind of a homecoming for me," he said. "So much of my life was spent in Albany. My son lived there through the years. I have many good friends there. I can't imagine a place I'd rather do a reading at. It's like reading to my family."
Jack Rightmyer is a regular contributor to the Times Union. 

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Awkwafina Makes Splash in West Addition

“I took a chance, you know, and it worked out,” said comedic rapper, soon-to-be movie star, and University at Albany alum, Nora Lum, also known as “Awkwafina.”

Lum walked through the Science Library halls, reminiscing about being a student here. She remembered walking down Fuller Road, walking through Stuyvesant Plaza, and living on Empire Commons. This was Lum’s second time back on campus since she graduated.

She made her way to her meet-and-greet, where she signed autographs and took pictures with students, before having an on-stage interview with Steve Barnes, a journalism professor and senior writer at the Times Union.

Lum first gained fame after releasing a music video for her song “My Vag” on YouTube back in 2012. It gained almost two million views.

“I was sitting on it for quite a while,” said Lum. “I was 19 when I wrote it. I actually wrote it here.” She released the song after graduation. About six or seven years after writing it, her friend heard it and decided that they needed to make a music video.

“It took a while,” she said. “I was working in a full-time job at the time, so I was scared to put it out.”
But Lum took a chance. Read more in the Albany Student Press.

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Monday, April 3, 2017

MacArthur Genius Filmmaker Stanley Nelson 4/7

Meet award-winning filmmaker and MacArthur Genius Stanley Nelson who will answer your questions following a screening of his acclaimed film, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, this Friday night, 7PM start time, Page Hall, UAlbany Downtown campus.
"Sober yet electrifying!" A. O. Scott, New York Times
"Essential history and a primer in making sense of how we live now."-- Washington Post

 Film screening with commentary by director Stanley Nelson — 7:00 p.m. [note early start time], Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

 Directed by Stanley Nelson (United States, 2015, 115 minutes, color and b/w)

 This feature length documentary explores the remarkable history of the Black Panther Party, its formation and ultimate downfall, and its cultural and political significance to the broader American culture. Nikki Baughan of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, called the film “Compelling and incisive,” and said, “The most shocking aspect…is how painfully relevant its message still is.” The film premiered at Sundance, aired on PBS, and received awards for Best Documentary from the Image Awards and the National Board of Review
Stanley Nelson is an Emmy Award-wining documentary filmmaker and recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama in 2014. Nelson’s other films include FREEDOM RIDERS, JONESTOWN: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF PEOPLE’S TEMPLE, and THE MURDER OF EMMETT TILL, among others.
Note: Producer Marcia Smith, also originally scheduled to attend, will not appear at the event because of a scheduling conflict.
Sponsored in conjunction with UAlbany’s School of Criminal Justice’s Justice & Multiculturalism in the 21st Century: Crime, Justice, and Public Memory Film Series.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Unspeakably in love with books

"As a child I was unspeakably in love with books. My dad had built two massive shelves that ran the width of our knotty pine-paneled living room. These were laden with the many high quality volumes of great works sent regularly to my mother by a man who either was or fancied himself to be her suitor — an untold story unto itself. I was too young to appreciate either the distinction between the two or the peculiarity of my father having built the shelves for the books the supposed suitor sent."
Read the full column in the Times Union:  http://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-opinion/article/Jo-Page-Reading-is-nothing-short-of-a-10987387.php
Come hear Jo Page speak about her new memoir, Preaching in My Yes Dress: Confessions of a Reluctant Pastor," this coming Tuesday, March 28. She'll share the stage with her teacher, UAlbany Professor Emeritus and novelist, 
March 28 (Tuesday):  Eugene Mirabelli, novelist, and Jo Page, memoir writer and journalist
Reading — 4:15 p.m., University Hall Room 110, Collins Circle, Uptown Campus

Jo Page, essayist, newspaper columnist, and ordained Lutheran minister, is the author of the new memoir, Preaching in My Yes Dress: Confessions of a Reluctant Pastor (2016), a candid, moving, and humorous account of her spiritual journey. Bestselling novelist Margot Livesey said the book is “all the things you hope a good memoir will be: profound, witty, deeply serious, wonderfully original, and utterly absorbing.” For 20 years the author of the "Reckonings" column for Metroland, Albany’s former newsweekly, Page now writes a column for the Albany Times Union. Read more
Eugene Mirabelli, Professor Emeritus of English at UAlbany, received the prestigious Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) Gold Medal for his 2012 novel, Renato the Painter: An Account of His Youth & His 70th Year in His Own Words, the story of an artist who lives life with gusto and practices his art in defiance of critical and public neglect. Author and NPR reviewer Andrei Codrescu described the book as “…a fresco of Sicilian-American-New England life….” Mirabelli’s new book is the sequel, Renato After Alba: His Rage Against Life, Love & Loss in His Own Words (2016), an account of Renato’s experience of widowerhood at the age of 83. Publishers Weekly said, “The reader feels such affection for Renato… you can forgive him anything.” Read more

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Derek Walcott, in memoriam (1930-2017)

The Writers Institute mourns the passing of poet and Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott who visited us in

See video from his Albany visit here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tlWeaErcVE

See more about his Albany visit here:  http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst/webpages4/archives/walcott.html

Read the New York Times obituary here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/17/books/derek-walcott-dead-nobel-prize-literature.html?_r=0

Derek Walcott, whose intricately metaphorical poetry captured the physical beauty of the Caribbean, the harsh legacy of colonialism and the complexities of living and writing in two cultural worlds, bringing him a Nobel Prize in Literature, died early Friday morning at his home near Gros Islet in St. Lucia. He was 87.

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Dael Orlandersmith Rescheduled to May 1st!

Please note that Dael Orlandersmith, Obie-winning playwright and Pulitzer Prize finalist in Drama, has rescheduled her appearances to Monday, May 1st (she was originally scheduled to appear March 20th).

Orlandersmith will deliver the annual Burian Lecture about her life in the theater and her powerful new play, “Until the Flood,” about explosive events and racial tensions in Ferguson, Missouri. Her work frequently explores the struggles of African Americans in urbans settings, and life in the rough East Harlem neighborhood of her childhood. Cosponsored by the Jarka and Grayce Burian Endowment and UAlbany’s Theatre Program

May 1 (Monday):  The 21st Annual Burian Lecture— Dael Orlandersmith, award-winning playwright 

Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center

The Burian Lecture — 8:00 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center

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