“The Way Language Can Become a Living Thing”: Tracy K. Smith’s Extraordinary Light

March 11, 2016, by

RM3_2899I walked all over Rice University before heading to Tracy K. Smith’s reading for the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series last Monday. I was excited:  it was perfect weather—clouds but not raining, warm but not hot, cool but not cold.  The light was starting to dim.  So what do you do about this—inner or outer weather?  Prose or poetry?  Luckily, Smith does both.

Rice University President David Leebron did some introductions, reminding those of us sitting in the audience that it was the last day of Black History Month, and the ninetieth anniversary of that tradition.  It was also the fiftieth anniversary of the first African-American undergraduates attending Rice.  Smith herself is interested in the intersections between the undergraduate experience and race, and read from her lyric and moving memoir, Ordinary Light, in which part of her narrative concentrates on how she felt as an undergraduate while taking courses that made her profoundly consider what “African-American Studies” meant not just in a course catalogue, but in her negotiations with others (including a white boyfriend who rejected her and broke her heart),and, most importantly, with herself.  Her memoir was a National Book Award finalist—and one can see why:  she explores in her juxtapositions of memory, epiphany, and speculation what her parents (particularly her mother) might have felt and experienced.  Much of this is connected to her mother’s struggles with cancer while Smith was in her twenties—in which she was both “changed and consoled.”  This was one of the challenges that allows Smith to intersect thoughts regarding race, family relationships, education, faith, and religion all in the context of a coming of age narrative that makes the reader feel like they are completely in the author’s head, with very little authorial distance employed—a technique that makes the reader trust Smith from sentence to shining sentence, although the light hardly seems “ordinary,” but clear and illuminating in a memorable and engaging way. Continue reading

Inprint awards more than $200,000 in prizes and fellowships to creative writing students in Houston

March 2, 2016, by

Who will be the James Baldwin, Jane Austen, Somerset Maugham, or J. D. Salinger of this generation? For Inprint, supporting the next generation of great writers is crucial to helping us fulfill our mission of inspiring readers and writers.

Inprint is proud to be awarding $201,500 in direct support during the 2015-2016 academic year to some of the nation’s top emerging creative writers in Houston. The money is awarded as prizes and fellowships to University of Houston Creative Writing Program (UH CWP) graduate students and a prize for an undergraduate at Rice University.

This year marks Inprint’s highest single-year amount of support for these creative writing students. Since 1983, Inprint has provided more than $3 million dollars in direct support to more than 500 students. Recipients of these fellowships and prizes are changing the face of contemporary literature and have gone on to publish books, win literary awards, serve as educators, and enrich the cultural life of Houston and other communities nationwide. The collaboration between Inprint and the UH Creative Writing Program—a community-based literary arts nonprofit and a university-based creative writing program—is unique in the country, benefiting both the writers and the Houston community. Continue reading

“Her Teachers Thought She Was a Dreamer”: Sandra Cisneros and the Backward Glance

October 22, 2015, by

RM3_6265Last Monday was hot for October—a strange day, full of distractions. The radio was full of news but it all seems old.  I self-medicate with baseball, flinch when my team doesn’t win.

I was going to hear Sandra Cisneros read from her new nonfiction, A House of My Own: Stories of My Life.  I think of her poems, the ones I taught in my multicultural literature class.  My favorite was “You Bring Out the Mexican in Me.”  I love that poem.  Everyone had to write an imitation of this poem, but it was “You Bring Out the Blank in Me.”  You had to fill in the blank to make it the right poem for you.  I did it too.  I think of her primarily as a fiction writer or a poet, but I think all those pieces are stories of her life, too.  Maybe names have been changed—not sure.

I drive early to Rice–I don’t want to be late.  When I pull in to park, the sky is pink, like the West, or Mexico, or somewhere else that you might have imagined when the real sky was too dark.

This reading is sold out.  I told my students: “Hey, I think this is going to sell out.”  They look at me like maybe I want them to do something.  I do.  Or I did.  Those tickets are gone. Continue reading

Words and Art Reading featured poetry and prose inspired by Ben Butler’s UnBounded

August 24, 2015, by

IMG_4154As a proud UH graduate student (go Coogs!), I don’t often make it to the Rice University campus. But on a serene Wednesday evening, during the first true break in the heat, when the hallowed walkways and archways were glazed with late-summer rain, I found myself entering the Rice Art Gallery, attending my first ever Words and Art reading.

Coordinated by Mary Wemple, a local poet-artist, the Words and Art reading series has been going strong since 2011. This particular reading featured poetry and prose inspired by artist Ben Butler’s sculpture/installation Unbounded.

Consisting of 10,000 hand-pegged poplar sticks, arranged into organically-shaped, three-dimensional grids, the work was magnificent. It managed to simultaneously draw attention to the scale and chaos of human behavior, and create a calming landscape for reflection. Continue reading

Poet Kenan Ince featured at First Friday on June 5th

June 2, 2015, by

Kenan InceFor more than fifteen years, Inprint has been proud to serve as host to First Friday. First Friday is the oldest poetry reading series in Houston, held on the first Friday of every month since 1975. The series is coordinated by Robert Clark and features a wide range of local and regional poets. Each evening begins at 8:30 pm with a reading by the featured poet, followed by an open mike. Clark and many involved in First Friday also help organize the annual Houston Poetry Fest, which takes place every October at the University of Houston Downtown.

On June 5, First Friday will feature Kenan Ince, a Houston writer to be reckoned with. A Dallas native, Kenan is currently a PhD student in Math at Rice University. Well-known in local writing circles, Kenan has given many readings around the city, was a juror at Houston Poetry Fest, and has been published in Word Riot, The Hartskill Review, and HeART Online.

Inprint blogger Sara Balabanlilar says she has encountered Kenan’s work in two very different Houston venues—the now defunct East Side Social Center (a beloved punk and DIY venue with the curated remains of Sedition Books’ collection) and Rice Gallery, in a night of poetry that responded to the current gallery installation. Both readings left an impression on Sara: “The audiences of the two spaces were entirely different, but Kenan handled both with ease.  During both readings, Kenan drew listeners into a series of beautifully imagined thought experiments that rendered them silent. His poetry is activist, certainly, but also with an amount of nostalgia that offsets a sense of political cliche. His metaphors are beautiful, extended forays into experiences that are entirely different from our daily Houston lives.”  Continue reading