UHCWP Student Spotlight: Selena Anderson

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May 26, 2017, by

1517556_10105358955057980_8598560224807440091_nSelena Anderson is one of the University of Houston’s newly minted PhD’s in Fiction. She completed her MFA at Columbia University where she won the Transatlantic/Henfield Prize. She has held fellowships at the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, the Carson McCullers Center, and the MacDowell Colony. Her work appears or is forthcoming in AGNI, Joyland, Georgia Review, Callaloo, Glimmer Train, Kenyon Review Online, NANO Fiction, and elsewhere.

Recent UHCWP grad Melanie Brkich interviewed Selena about her work, her new teaching job, and what she’ll miss most about Houston.

Melanie Brkich: Congrats on successfully defending your dissertation! How does it feel to be a doctor?

Selena Anderson: Thank you, Melanie! It’s cool! I’ve been working towards it for a long time and it’s always nice to accomplish something that you’ve worked so hard for.

MB: What is your dissertation about? Where did you draw the inspiration for it?

SA: My dissertation is a collection of stories about people who want to win and who make a bad situation worse by trying to do something about it. The stories are set in Texas—but in my imagined Texas of the recent past. There are ghosts, tiny men, a slave ship, dolls, dudes who talk in third person, forest fires, and plenty of girls brooding in their apartments. Continue reading

Ars Lyrica Houston’s Don Quixote’s Excellent Adventures

May 12, 2017, by

AL-Ars Lyrica web imagesAs many Houstonians know, Ars Lyrica Houston presents a diverse array of music from the 17th and 18th centuries on period instruments. The 2016-17 season was no exception, and as the season is now coming to a close, Ars Lyrica is concluding with a decidedly interesting finale: a performance based on Cervantes’s literary classic Don Quixote. I had a chance to discuss the project with Ars Lyrica founder and artistic director, Matthew Dirst.

MATTHEW KRAJNIAK: What inspired you to take the literary figure of Don Quixote and turn his experiences into an orchestrated musical production?

MATTHEW DIRST: Well, to start with there is a lot of great music surrounding this particular subject, from Henry Purcell’s Incidental Music to Don Quixote to Joseph Bodin de Boismortier’s Ballet on Don Quichotte to name but a few. However, in addition to this there has also recently been an important anniversary as this year coincides with the 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. Continue reading

Imagine Wanting Only An Evening of Conversation Between Smart Writers

May 8, 2017, by

Upright and cropped IMG_9270On Monday, May 1, Kristen Radke, author of the newly released graphic memoir-inquiry-novel Imagine Wanting Only This, spoke to Houston’s own beloved, award-winning poet and writer Nick Flynn at Brazos Bookstore.

Radke began the event by expressing her “admiration for booksellers.” She is the managing editor of the popular indie press Sarabande, so is familiar with both sides of the book industry. She also explained that Imagine Wanting Only This is “about ruins and abandoned places.” She decided to read an excerpt from the very end and “give it all away.” The section, a monologue, read like poetry in its pacing and probing of abstract ideas. A slideshow of the accompanying illustrations was also played.

Radke then sat with Flynn, who asked about her role as an illustrator and a writer. She admitted that while she studied commercial art as an undergrad and creative nonfiction at the University of Iowa in graduate school, she essentially taught herself how to combine her two passions. As her project continued, she did her research. When Flynn asked which women comics she liked, she answered straightforwardly “every woman who’s ever been a comic” and touched the pop cultural history of comics as a boys’ club with women typically portrayed as “anatomically incorrect.” Continue reading

Seven Reasons to See Catastrophic Theatre’s Snow White

April 24, 2017, by

Photo credit: Anthony Rathbun

Photo credit: Anthony Rathbun

If you haven’t seen it yet, Catastrophic Theater’s production of Donald Barthelme’s Snow White only runs for two more weekends – April 27th – 29th, and May 4th – 6th! (Get your tickets here.)

  1. Snow White by Donald Barthelme – this staging is the world premiere of any fully staged adaptation of Barthelme’s take on the classic fairy tale. Barthelme had begun to write an adaptation himself, which was shelved (okay, put in a drawer) before it could be finished.
  1. The performances – as director Greg Dean put it, he “needed actors with a facility for language, that could ‘switch styles’ easily, and locate the feelings and the jokes that often lie just below the surface of the prose.” His cast delivers, making effortless shifts in tone and energy to match the acrobatic language of the script. Check out the Houston Chronicle and HoustonPress reviews for more.

Continue reading

Just A Few More Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month in Houston

April 17, 2017, by

Voight,EllenBryantFor those who have yet to find time to honor National Poetry Month or for those eager to continue the celebration, Houston has some exciting events you should know about. This evening at 7:30 pm poet and MacArthur Fellow Ellen Bryant Voigt, will present a lecture on narrative and lyric poetry with a focus on poems written by Robert Frost and Randall Jarrell. After the lecture, poet Tony Hoagland will moderate a short Q & A. If you’re unable to make the lecture, Voigt will read from her most recent collection, Headwaters, and other work, Tuesday, April 18th, 7:30 pm. Both events take place at Inprint House.

cropped JFH_Poet Poster copy_lowres (1)On Wednesday, April 19, U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, the first Mexican-American to be named Poet Laureate, will give a reading at the University of Houston-Downtown, 5:30 pm in the Robertson Auditorium in the Academic Building, free and open to the public.

As part of the Gulf Coast Reading Series, A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize winner Chen Chen will read from his collection of poems, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, Friday, April 21st, 7 pm at Rudyard’s British Pub. Continue reading

A poetic night with Ada Limón and Gregory Pardlo

April 13, 2017, by

RM3_7535Last Monday, the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series welcomed poets Ada Limón and Gregory Pardlo. The poets, former classmates at NYU, have both recently been recognized: Limón’s Bright Dead Things was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award. Pardlo won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for his collection Digest, and as of Thursday, a Guggenheim Fellowship. Poet Kevin Prufer, who also serves as a professor at the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program, moderated a discussion with both after the reading.

Limón opened with “How to Triumph Like a Girl,” in which she imagines the power of a race- winning filly’s 8-pound heart: “Don’t you want to tug my shirt and see / the huge beating genius machine / that thinks, no, it knows, / it’s going to come in first.” When Prufer asked after Limón’s performance of the piece, she referred to Frederico García Lorca’s duende, and the heightened expression embodiment can bring to the work. Many of Limón’s poems showcased the same, with lines like, “You wake some days / full of crow and shine,” and “[…] then there’s the silence that comes back, a million times bigger than me, sneaks into my bones and wails and wails and wails […]” Continue reading

Five reasons not to miss Gregory Pardlo’s Inprint reading

April 1, 2017, by

Pardlo, Gregory Pardlo-author-photo photo by Rachel Eliza GriffithsAs we begin National Poetry Month today, Inprint presents Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gregory Pardlo Monday evening as part of the 2016/2017 Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series. Here are five we should all be excited to come out and hear him! 

“Song of Myself”

Not only does Pardlo have geographical ties to Whitman’s Brooklyn and New Jersey—he and his family live in Brooklyn and he attended university and teaches in Camden—but Pardlo’s work is often rooted in a formally expansive Whitmanesque poetic in terms of structure and content. When Pardlo writes in the much published poem “Written by Himself,” “I was born across the river where I/was borrowed with clothespins, a harrow tooth,/broadsides sewn in my shoes,” one hears Whitman’s voice and walks through his same America. Continue reading

Colson Whitehead makes Houston visit, talks childhood, writing, disco, and more

March 29, 2017, by

upIMG_8906In an event co-sponsored by Brazos Bookstore and Rice University’s Humanities Research Center, National Book Award-winning author of The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead, delivered a compelling and improvisational talk on Tuesday, March 21 at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in the Museum District. After taking an audibly refreshing sip of water, Colson Whitehead launched into a familiar bit. “I was born of poor black child…” he began. The few nerds that instantly recognized the introductory soliloquy from Steve Martin’s cult classic The Jerk knew we were in for a wild ride.

He vividly described his childhood in Manhattan, jokingly referring to himself as “a shut-in reading comic books.” From a relatively early age he knew he wanted to be a writer, and more specifically, “to write the black Shining.” His continued devotion to science fiction and horror, among the other genre writing, signals his crossover appeal.

Whitehead proceeded chronologically to his teenage years during which he “wore black and smoked cigarettes…but never touched a computer.” He discussed his big break in journalism, observing that he wrote the “definitive think-pieces on Growing Pains and Who’s the Boss.” Continue reading

Literary classic Animal Farm comes to the stage

March 27, 2017, by

Animal-FarmThe University of Houston’s School of Theatre and Dance brings a literary favorite to life this April with its production of George Orwell’s 1945 classic, Animal Farm. That’s right, the gang is back with Napoleon, Snowball, Old Major, and all the others as they oink, neigh, hee-haw, and talk in a thinly-veiled way about the events that led up to the Russian Revolution of 1917. The book is read in classrooms around the United States and is included in Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels of the 20th century.

Already a thought provoking story, what’s more is that this play has a unique production in that it’s being performed not only with hand-crafted masks to help create the animals, but also as a musical. I was able to do a quick Q&A with Bill Brown, the play’s director, and Robert Shimko, the Director of the School of Theatre and Dance, about the project and the process of bringing the story to the stage. Here’s what they had to say.

MATTHEW KRAJNIAK: Rob, you have several guest artists working on this project. Who are they? Continue reading

UHCWP Student Spotlight: Cait Weiss

March 27, 2017, by

image2A first-year in the University of Houston Creative Writing PhD Program for poetry, Cait Weiss is a recipient of an Inprint C. Glenn Cambor/MD Anderson Foundation Fellowship, is an Inprint Writers Workshop instructor and an Inprint Poetry Busker. Cait recently won the Zone 3 Press First Book Award for her poetry collection Valleyspeak, judged by Douglas Kearney. It will be published by Zone 3 in spring 2018.

Fellow UHCWP student Melanie Brkich recently sat down with Cait to talk more about her book, the past lives that informed it, and how her first year in the program is going so far.

Melanie Brkich: How are you liking your first year here?

Cait Weiss: I like it a lot. I made a mistake of over-scheduling myself this semester, not in terms of course work but in terms of WITS. That kind of thing has always been really important to me even before I got my MFA, when I was in New York I worked with New York Writers Coalition. And when I got to OSU I developed my own program there because we didn’t have anything like this. So we had the MFAs go into local high schools. For some reason I’m always making friends with high school English teachers, like we get along really well and are around the same age and stuff. And so when I got here I was all about it, but I was a little too much about it.

What’s wonderful is you can find ways to financially support yourself. But the trick is to remember I moved here for UH’s program. I didn’t move here for any of this other stuff. The PhD isn’t my side job. Continue reading