What an exciting time to be a booklover in Evanston! The 2nd Annual Evanston Literary Festival is currently in full swing, and from now until May 14th, you can celebrate Evanston’s vibrant literary community at more than 50 free events produced jointly by the Evanston Public Library, Bookends & Beginnings, Northwestern University, and the Chicago Book Expo 2016. Here on Off the Shelf we’re joining the fun by featuring interviews with some of the participating authors, poets, and graphic novelists, and first up is poet Chris Green. A Senior Lecturer in the English Department at DePaul University, Green is the author of three books of poetry: The Sky Over Walgreens, Epiphany School, and most recently Résumé. His poetry has appeared in such publications as Poetry, The New York Times, New Letters, Verse, and Nimrod, and he’s edited four anthologies including Brute Neighbors: Urban Nature Poetry, Prose & Photography and most recently I Remember: Chicago Veterans of War. On Saturday, May 14th at 5:30 pm, Green will share his work as part of the “5 Poets, 20 Poems” reading at the Unicorn Cafe, and in anticipation, we spoke with him via email about his poetic origins and inspirations, his writing process, and his new poem “Chicago, September.”
Our National Poetry Month celebration has reached a fever pitch, but before we make our last call and flip on the bright lights, we want to introduce one more special guest to our poetry party. As you well know, Evanston is home to some seriously talented poets, and it is our pleasure to highlight their work right here on Off the Shelf. Next up is Reginald Gibbons. The Director of the Graduate Creative Writing Program in NU’s School of Professional Studies, Gibbons’ tenth book of poems, Last Lake, will be published in October by University of Chicago Press, and his book about poetry, How Poems Think, came out last fall. He has published a novel, Sweetbitter, has edited a collection of poets’ essays (The Poet’s Work) and other books, and has translated a volume of Selected Poems: Odes and Fragments of Sophocles, poems by Spanish and Mexican poets, and also two ancient Greek tragedies (Bakkhai and Antigone); in 2017 he will publish a book of very short fiction. We recently spoke with Gibbons via email about his poetic origins, his writing process, and the poetry that inspires him.
Marta Mazur is a local painter, poet, and the latest artist to be featured in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. Her exhibit Life in the Rush is currently on display on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library where you can catch it through April 28th. Featuring a striking mix of abstract oils, pencil and charcoal drawings, and original poetry, her show strives “to understand difficult issues and take a hard look at society.” You can see more of Ms. Mazur’s work by visiting her website, and we recently spoke with her via email about her artistic origins, her poetry, and her commitment to social activism.
Ben Nadler believes that “a writer owes a reader a good story,” and with his excellent new novel The Sea Beach Line, that’s exactly what the Brooklyn-based author delivers. A hypnotic hybrid of literary crime fiction and Jewish folklore, The Sea Beach Line tells the gripping coming-of-age story of Izzy Edel, a young man adrift after being expelled from Oberlin for hallucinogenic drug use. Given renewed purpose after receiving a mysterious postcard from his estranged father Alojzy, Izzy travels to New York City where he must navigate Alojzy’s world of street vendors, gangsters, and members of a religious sect as he searches for his missing dad. Filled with sharp insights on loyalty, self-reliance, and the complicated bonds of family, The Sea Beach Line was described in Library Journal’s starred review as “a mesmerizing narrative that will speak to any readers who have tried to make sense of their parents’ lives or the secrets that people keep.” This Monday, April 25th at 7 pm, you can hear Nadler read from The Sea Beach Line when he visits Bookends & Beginnings as part of an EPL-sponsored event also featuring author Abby Geni. In anticipation of his visit, we recently spoke with him via email about literary traditions, his novel’s origins, the history of Hasidic tales, collective memory, and a few of his favorite books and poems.
Laurence Gonzales’s impressive list of literary achievements just got even longer. Already the winner of two prestigious National Magazine Awards and the Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, the bestselling Evanston author recently had the honor of seeing his acclaimed book Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival adapted for the Chicago stage. Titled “United Flight 232,” the House Theatre of Chicago production opened to rave reviews on March 11 and runs through May 1 at the Chopin Theatre. But that’s not all. On March 21, Gonzales was also named a Miller Scholar of the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) – an award previously received by author Neal Stephenson and actor-playwright Sam Shepard and given annually to “highly accomplished, creative thinkers who make profound contributions to our understandings of society, science, and culture.” In celebration of all his good news, we recently spoke with Gonzales via email about the origins of Flight 232 and its journey to the stage, his plans for his twelve months at SFI, and his appreciation of the poet James Wright.
Our National Poetry Month celebration has been raging for nearly two weeks, and it is now time to welcome some very special guests to our poetry party. You see, Evanston is home to some amazingly talented poets, and throughout the rest of April, it is our pleasure to highlight their work right here on Off the Shelf. First up is Rachel Jamison Webster. An Associate Professor of Poetry and Creative Non-Fiction at Northwestern University, Webster is the author of the full-length collection September, the poetry-prose hybrid The Endless Unbegun, and the chapbooks Leaving Phoebe and The Blue Grotto. Her work has also appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, and Blackbird, and her numerous honors include the Poetry Foundation’s Emerging Artist Award and the Academy of American Poets’ Young Poets Prize. We recently spoke with Webster via email about her poetic origins and inspirations, her writing process, and her new poem “Belize.”
We last talked with author Christine Sneed back in early 2011 shortly after she published her first short story collection Portraits of A Few of the People I’ve Made Cry. Already the winner of the Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction, her stunning debut became a magnet for literary awards and was eventually named a finalist for the LA Times’ Book Prize for First Fiction. But Sneed was just getting started. In the years that followed, the NU writing teacher has published two critically-acclaimed novels – Little Known Facts (2013) and Paris, He Said (2015), graced the cover of the NY Times Book Review, and continued to collect writing honors including the Carl Sandburg 21st Century Award and a Booklist nod for a Top Ten Debut Novel. This Saturday, April 9th, you can hear Sneed read selections from her recent work when she visits EPL’s 1st Floor Community Meeting Room at 4 pm along with author and comedienne Julia Sweeney. In anticipation of her visit, we recently spoke with her via email about the life of a successful novelist, her forthcoming story collection The Virginity of Famous Men, the resurgence of short fiction, and her favorite recent reads.
Teresa Parod is a painter, quilter, and the latest Evanston artist to be featured in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. Her colorful exhibit is currently on display on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library where you can catch it through the end of March. Included are nearly two dozen paintings that express the challenges of our “everyday quest” through life and four, intricately-designed quilts that were created through a grant from the Judith Dawn Memorial Fund. We recently spoke with Ms. Parod via email about how her Aunt Marg sparked her interest in art, her use of shadow in her paintings, and the remarkable family that inspired her quilts.
Maya Schenwar is Editor-in-Chief of Truthout – an independent social justice news website – and the author of the recent book Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better. On Monday, March 7th, she will discuss her book when she visits EPL as part of the special program Unlocking America: How to Change Our Broken Prison System. Cosponsored by Chicago Books to Women in Prison and Cabrini Green Legal Aid, the program will also feature Dr. Crystal T. Laura who joins Schenwar to explore the impact of prison on families and advocate for a sweeping overhaul of our criminal justice system. In anticipation of this important discussion, we recently spoke with Schenwar via email about how her sister’s incarceration inspired her activism, the goal of “decarceration,” the crucial work of community groups like Curt’s Cafe, and how to achieve true lasting safety.
Coming off one of the world’s most destructive civil wars, Sri Lanka is making a big change in its political landscape as a result of the 2015 election. However, is it democracy in the making? India’s fast growing economy has run into the wall of its own shortcomings. Can the Modi administration deliver on its promises, or is the “shining India” more mirage than reality? On Saturday, February 20th at 3 pm, Derek Monroe – a reporter on international and U.S. foreign policy issues and a columnist at RT.com – visits EPL to discuss his impressions after his recent visits to both countries. In anticipation of his visit, we spoke with Mr. Monroe via email about the echoes of civil war in Sri Lanka, building tension in India and Pakistan, and continuing conflict in Kashmir.