Boston Writers Involved in New Writers’ Coalition

Boston University Creative Writing Alum Tara Skurtu (Poetry ’13) and edb78a3f-591b-46b6-915e-04d87513029aAGNI founder Askold Melnyczuk are involved in a new, international coalition of writers dedicated to protecting democratic values. As members of the steering committee of Writers for Democratic Action, they (and other members such as Peter Balakian, Carolyn Forché, Jericho Brown, and Natasha Tretheway) have committed themselves to the organization’s mission of “bringing together the literary community to demand racial and economic justice, champion suffrage for all people, oppose impediments to democratic government, and resist white supremacist, nationalist, and fascist movements,” and promise to “stand vigilant in the service of the republic to promote the common good.”

On September 11, 2021, the twentieth anniversary of al Qaeda’s assaults on the United States, Writers for Democratic Action will present a panel of distinguished writers to discuss what the United States’ response to 9/11 has meant both for the country and for the rest of the world. Panelists will engage with questions of the effects that linger in the present moment globally, and how we might learn from the history of 9/11 and inform our actions in defense of democracy.

Novelist Paul Auster, essayist and poet Caroline Randall Williams, historian Heather Cox Richardson, and Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury will discuss these questions as part of a panel moderated by author and former NPR host and correspondent Jacki Lyden. The event will be hosted by Todd Gitlin, a writer, sociologist, and founding member of Writers for Democratic Action. Mitchell Kaplan and Books & Books have agreed to virtually host the event.

Those interested in attending the event can register for the free event here. Those seeking more information about Writers for Democratic Action can visit their website or email thewriters@writersfordemocraticaction.org.

Aaron Caycedo-Kimura to publish book with Beacon Press

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We’re excited to announce that Aaron Caycedo-Kimura’s (Poetry ’20) book, Common Grace: Poems, is forthcoming from Beacon Press! Aaron says the book grew out of his thesis, which he continued working on after graduating in fall 2020.

Common Grace is a poetry collection in three parts. It explores Aaron’s life and art, the death of his parents, and his close relationship with his wife, Luisa Caycedo-Kimura (Poetry ’13). The book is part of the new poetry series Raised Voices and will be published in fall 2022.

Congratulations, Aaron!

Aaron Caycedo-Kimura is a poet and visual artist. His poetry appears or is forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, Poet Lore, DMQ Review, Tule Review, THINK Journal, Louisiana Literature, Naugatuck River Review, and elsewhere. Aaron is also the author and illustrator of Text, Don’t Call: An Illustrated Guide to the Introverted Life (TarcherPerigee).

Danny Hardisty’s collection shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre First Collection Prize

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A bit belatedly, we are pleased excited to announce that Danny Hardisty’s (Poetry 2018) book Rose with Harm has been shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre First Collection Prize! The collection was published by Salt Publishing last October, and is described by Gail Mazur as “really beautiful and mature.”

Danny says,

How a book comes together is a bit of a mystery to me. Rose with Harm has been out since last September and was  recently nominated for the Seamus Heaney Centre First Collection prize. When I look at it now it seems coherent and planned. But the reality is the book didn’t really exist until the MFA year at Boston and the travel scholarship which came afterwards. There was an urgency to putting the book together that came from the momentum of the MFA and the context of my life at that time. The poems from the MFA had been checked and triple checked, workshopped and scrutinized and it was my confidence in those poems that allowed me to construct the heart of the book. Plenty of people had encouraged me over the years, and had helped out in some way in the book’s production. But it was Gail, Robert and Karl, and my colleagues, in the workshop who made me lay my cards on the table.

Congratulations, Danny!

Daniel Hardisty is a US/UK citizen. He holds a BA from the University of East Anglia and an MFA from Boston University. His poems have appeared in Poetry London, The London Magazine, Poetry Ireland Review, The Spectator and on BBC Radio 4. He has been awarded an Academy of American Poets prize, a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship, a Faber New Poets prize, an Arts Council Writers award and a New Writing North Award. He was co-editor of the anthology if you’re not happy now and is currently co-editor of the magazine Volume. His poetry collection Rose with Harm was published in 2020 and is shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre First Collection Prize.

Celebrate Pride Month with the Queer Poem-a-Day Podcast Series, featuring BU poets!

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Happy Pride Month! We’re so excited to share Queer Poem-a-Day, a daily series from the Deerfield Public Library Podcast, featuring poems written and read by contemporary LGBTQIA+ poets. With Dylan Zavagno, Queer Poem-a-Day is co-directed by the BU MFA Program’s very own Lisa Hiton (Poetry ’11)! You can listen in, and read the poems and bios of the poets here. A new poem will be released each day this month.

Lisa told us that the following BU alums and friends of the MFA program will be featured in June: Jill McDonough, Richie Hofmann, Rachel Mennies, Carl Phillips, and Dan Kraines. She says,
I hope Queer Poem-a-Day serves the patrons of the library, Deerfield, and the larger world of contemporary poetry by showing–even just for a mere month–the power of LGBTQIA+ expression in this mode–the lyric mode,” says Lisa Hiton. “How these voices can engender us all to listen to each other, to look within ourselves, and to find radiance in experiences both grand and intimate.

To learn more about the upcoming Queer Poem-a-Day series and to subscribe , visit deerfieldlibrary.org/podcast. The Library is hosting The Lyric Self: Discovering Queer Traditions in Poetry on June 30 at 7:00 p.m. You can learn more about that and other events at deerfield.libnet.info/events.

Thank you, Lisa, for the wonderful work you’re doing!

Lisa Hiton is a poet and educator from Deerfield, IL. Her first book of poems, Afterfeast, was selected by Mary Jo Bang to win the Dorset Prize at Tupelo Press (forthcoming 2021). She holds an M.F.A. in poetry from Boston University and and M.Ed. in Arts in Education from Harvard University. To learn more, visit lisahiton.com.

Grant Quackenbush’s poetry debut forthcoming in October

Grant Quakenbush, portrait 1We’re excited to announce that Grant Quackenbush’s poetry book Off Topic is forthcoming from Pinyon Publishing this October!  Below is the cover of the book, an oil portrait of the author by Bradford J. Salamon.

Off Topic grew out of Grant’s BU thesis, which he continued to write  and revise during the spring and summer of 2020.  He says: I got really lucky because I only sent it out to about a half a dozen places before it was accepted in November. Since then I’ve continued to edit it in very small but important ways and now it is completely done. 

Congratulations, Grant!  We’re looking forward to reading your book.

Grant Quackenbush received his MFA from Boston University in 2019.  He recently published poems in Cultural Weekly, Rattleand Tammy.  His full-length debut poetry collection, Off Topic, will be published by Pinyon Publishing in October 2021.

Aaron Caycedo-Kimura and Julia Pike receive St. Botolph grants

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headshot (3)We’re so pleased to announce that Aaron Caycedo-Kimura (Poetry ’20) and current fiction MFA Julia Pike have received Emerging Artists Awards this spring! Given by the St. Botolph Club Foundation in Boston, the grant is one of New England’s most prestigious, and supports musicians and visual artists as well as writers. We’re very proud to have had several St. Botolph award recipients from our program over the years, including Duy Doan (Poetry ’10), Kimberly Elkins (Fiction ’09), Neshat Khan (Fiction ’18), Jillian Jackson (Fiction ’15), Val Otarod (Fiction ’20), Sara Rivera (Poetry ’13), and Grace Yun (Fiction ’18)!

From Aaron’s winning application, a poem entitled “Hand Tilling”:

the smell of earth takes him back        to San Gabriel    the family

farm of rented acreage        before the War        before

Executive Order 9066        eviction        incarceration

From Julia’s winning application, a story entitled “If I Were a Different Kind of Person”:

Vindicated, Maeve started to run, past the trees at the edge of the sand, bleached bone-white, down to the edge of the water. She trailed her hand through the tip of a wave, then pulled back quickly, yelled “Freezing!” and stuck her fingers in her mouth. She could stay this young because everything had always been simple for her, Austin knew.

Congratulations, Aaron and Julia! We’re excited for you.

Aaron Caycedo-Kimura is a writer and visual artist. He is the author of Ubasute, which won the 2020 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition. His poetry has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Poet Lore, DMQ Review, Tule Review, Louisiana Literature, The Night Heron Barks, and elsewhere. Aaron earned his MFA in creative writing from Boston University and is a recipient of a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship in Poetry. He is also the author and illustrator of Text, Don’t Call: An Illustrated Guide to the Introverted Life (TarcherPerigee, 2017).

Since graduating from Amherst College in 2019, Julia Pike has been a yogurt swirler in Brooklyn, New York, an English teacher in Chiang Rai, Thailand, and a nanny in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her work has been published in The Rumpus, The Common, and Rookie Magazine. She lives in Boston, MA. 

Stacy Mattingly publishes essay in Off Assignment

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Stacy Mattingly (Fiction ’11) published a moving essay about a bit of family history in Off Assignment.  The essay, called “To the Spy I’m Named For,” is part of the excellent “Letter to a Stranger” column.  Read it here!

Off Assignment had this to say about the piece:

R was a spy, a diplomat from Mississippi, a CIA man in South America. What is the legacy of his name, of his shrouded past? Writing about her namesake, author @stacemattingly lifts the veil on the mysterious generational impulses that guide our paths, taking us from the American South to Sarajevo to snowy Boston to tell us a family story that delicately navigates the line between the memorable and the unknowable. 

Stacy also contributed a “Behind the Essay” interview, which you can find here or linked in her bio below the essay.

Congratulations, Stacy!

Stacy Mattingly is a writer living in Boston. She launched the Sarajevo Writers’ Workshop in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2012 and later helped lead the first Narrative Witness exchange (Caracas-Sarajevo) for the International Writing Program. She has recently completed a first novel set in the present-day Balkans.

Current poets celebrate National Poetry Month with on-campus readings

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We’re so pleased to share news from one of our current poets, Sean Beckett. A talented spoken word artist, Sean brought his love of poetry to students as a teacher at Boston Arts Academy last fall. This spring, he organized an outdoor reading series on Marsh Plaza for both his BU classmates and the Boston community.

Sean says: This spring for National Poetry Month, the 2020-2021 BU MFA Poetry students (AKA The Covid Cohort) have been doing a series of informal outdoor readings. Affectionately dubbed “Poetry on Marsh Plaza,” (P.O.M.P.) for short, this has been a wonderful opportunity to hear fresh poetry, connect with fellow students, and give the gift of poetry to the broader Boston community. We have shared both favorite poems and our own works, some thousands of years old and some written in the last month! Several spontaneous readers have joined us– everyone fScreen Shot 2021-04-26 at 5.07.55 PMrom a BU faculty emeritus who recited a Frost poem to an undergraduate who performed “Invictus” from memory. One of the greatest treats has been hearing the thesis-poems-in-progress of current MFA students Ari Kaplan and Natalie Bavar read aloud, as well as some of their earlier work.   Thanks to the generosity of the Creative Writing Program, we’ve had a wonderful sound set-up ideal for the outdoor fun.

If you are interested in popping over for a reading on campus, or having us bring one to you somewhere in Boston, let us know!

Thank you, Sean!

Jason Barry published in 32 Poems

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Jason Barry (Poetry 2019) has published a poem called “Fishing” in the latest issue of 32 Poems!

Jason says, “Fishing” was written in memory of Dr. Kim Bridgford – the poet and director of Poetry by the Sea, an annual writers conference held in Madison, Connecticut. I was awarded a scholarship to attend the inaugural conference in 2015, and it was the first time I shared my poems with peers in a formal workshop. I am forever grateful to Kim for her generosity, encouragement, and dedication to the art of poetry.

Read more about Kim Bridgford here.

Thank you, Jason, and congratulations!

Jason Barry’s poems have appeared in Barrow Street, Cimarron Review, Poet Lore, The Cortland Review, Raintown Review, and elsewhere. He earned his MFA at Boston University and currently teaches at Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University.

Caroline Woods’ second novel to be published by Knopf Doubleday

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We’re proud to share that Caroline Woods (Fiction ’08) has signed with Knopf Doubleday to publish her second novel, The Lunar Housewife, in 2022! The novel is inspired by the CIA’s manipulation of arts and letters during the Cold War and follows a journalist who faces a mix of censorship, surveillance, and gaslighting when she pens a subversively feminist novel and forms an unlikely friendship with Ernest Hemingway.

Hearty congratulations, Caroline!

Caroline Woods is the author of the novel Fräulein M. (Gallery Books).  She currently teaches creative writing for GrubStreet Online, and she has previously taught at Loyola University Chicago, BU, and the Boston Conservatory at Berklee College of Music.  Her short fiction has been published in Slice Magazine (which nominated her for a Pushcart Prize), LEMON, and 236, BU Creative Writing’s Literary Journal. She has also written for Literary Hub, The Scene, and other publications.