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"A sense of wonder – at the world, at people, at books, at ideas": an interview with Siddhartha Deb

Siddhartha Deb

India is a prominent theme in your work. Many writers describe being psychically connected to certain places—whether it is because they hail from these places or because they simply share a special connection to them. Can you tell us about how India shapes and influences your work and why it recurs across your oeuvre?

“you can write what you want, but let us live a little more beautifully the second time": Jihyun Yun in conversation with Nicole Lachat

Our Book Prize Coordinator Nicole Lachat recently spoke with Jihyun Yun about her Raz Shumaker Book Prize-winning poetry collection. Please enjoy this excellent conversation!

Jihyun Yun’s debut collection, Some Are Always Hungry, was the winning manuscript of the Raz Shumaker Prize in Poetry in 2019 and was published through University of Nebraska Press in 2020.

NICOLE LACHAT: Hello, Jihyun! I have the good fortune of calling you a friend. But for those who don’t know you, can you tell us how you came to poetry? 

JIHYUN YUN: This isn’t the most romantic story, but I tripped and fell into poetry in my junior year at UC Davis. I was having a science heavy quarter and wanted to round it out with a creative class. Fiction was full, so I enrolled in the poetry workshop knowing absolutely nothing about it. 

"Discovery makes the recollection worthy of being recounted": An Interview with Jerald Walker

by Jordan Charlton and Kasey Peters

Our very own Jordan Charlton and Kasey Peters recently spoke to Jerald Walker about the art of the essay. Walker is the author of the award-winning How to Make a Slave and Other Essays. He will also be judging our Summer Creative Nonfiction Contest. Click here for full details on how to submit.

Jordan Charlton and Kasey Peters: In conversation with Joy Castro, as part of the Writing Brilliant Essays series here at UNL, you said that your own essays tend to begin with something that troubles you and that you seek to understand something from multiple perspectives. Can you describe how you approach that pursuit? How do you inhabit multiple perspectives in your narratives, and why do you think that's important?

Celebrating Women In Translation!

August is Women in Translation month and we wanted to celebrate by sharing a selection of brilliant authors from all over the world whose work we've published. Enjoy!

"Lived in the Half-Light, the Twilight": An Interview with Ted Kooser

by Laine Derr

When asked about poetry, Ted Kooser, former Poet Laureate of the United States, responds, “One important objective for me is to write clearly and accessibly.” 

His writing reminds me of youthful days spent on my grandparents’ farm in Oregon, picking raspberries, having meals under a weeping willow, its shadow brushing slowly across our picnic table. 

“Anybody can write a poem that nobody can understand,” Kooser continues, “but what’s the point in that?”  

Laine Derr: You write of memories that you will hold onto forever, stories shadowed in mystery.  If it is not too much to ask, would you care to share a memory that still visits you from time to time?

Poetry and Media #022

John Lee Clark's poem "A DeafBlind Poet" is a direct and compelling portrait of a disabled artist's life: "A DeafBlind poet has yet to be gainfully employed. A DeafBlind poet shares all his trade secrets with his children. A DeafBlind poet will not stop if police order him to. A DeafBlind poet used to like dogs but now prefers cats. A DeafBlind poet listens to his wife." Clark's work, both as a poet and as a teacher of Protactile, a new touch language for the DeafBlind, is the subject of a recent article by James Yeh. "Virtually every singificant DeafBlind historical figure was a poet, in addition to the things they were more famous or tokenized for," Clark said.

Poetry and Media #021

Al Robles's first and only collection of poems, Rappin' With Ten Thousand Carabaos in the Dark, was published in 1996. Long out of print, the book's second life officially began this month with the UCLA Asian American Studies Center's publication of an expanded edition. "The struggle and promise of becoming a Pilipino in America can be found in the poetry of Al Robles," wrote Russell Leong in his preface to the 1996 edition. Robles was a pillar of the San Francisco Filipino American and Asian American literary scene. Through his work at the Kearny Street Workshop, Robles mentored countless young writers, including Barbara Jane Reyes.

Poetry and Media #020

Henrik Nordbrandt is the subject of A Poet's Odyssey, a new film from Denmark's Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. It's an austere and compelling portrait of a man reflecting on the central themes and experiences of his life. Nordbrandt on being born in a warzone says: "I was born on March 21st, 1945. It was about two hours before the Royal Air Force bombed Copenhagen. When people asked me as a child why I was so nervous I said, 'I was born with shell shock.' It was a joke, but it's probably true." Nordbrandt's recollection of his earliest childhood memory: "I shit on the bed and spread it all over myself. It was a lovely feeling. My grandmother scolded me. She didn't like having shit on her bed. She put me in the sink and washed me with cold water.

Poetry and Media #019

Shirley LeFlore was the second-ever poet laureate of St. Louis. She got her start as a member of Black Artists' Group, an interdisciplinary collective of St. Louis musicians, dancers, actors, and writers. BAG is the subject of The Black Artists' Group: Creation Equals Movement, a documentary streaming through November 22nd as part of this year's virtual edition of the St. Louis Film Festival. The film tracks BAG's rise and fall, exploring the feeling of revolutionary potential that informed Black art in the late 1960s. The film also documents acts of authoritarian repression perpetrated by the United States government against Black artists and activists. "A lot of us was subject to get arrested," LeFlore says in the film.

Poetry and Media #018

Vahni Capildeo and Xasan Daahir "Weedhsame" will be joining forces for "Poetics of Place and Displacement," a virtual reading and discussion happening on November 11th. With all the talk of politics and elections, it can be all too easy to lose sight of how damaging, on a human level, the strange rituals of nations can be. From the UN: "There are now 80 million displaced people around the world--almost double the number from a decade ago--owing to war, violence, persecution, and other emergencies." Capildeo and Weedhsame are uniquely equipped to talk about this global castastrophe. Capildeo is the author of Measures of Expatriation, a book burdened by associations with leaving and distance--from mythical exodus, to bird migration, to recent conflicts in the Middle East and their human consequences.


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