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.
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.
Find “An Interview with Oliver Baldwin Edwards” at Off the Shelf’s new home on Evanston Public Library’s redesigned website.
See you there!!
Silk Road Rising is a Chicago theatre company founded in 2002 with the mission of “telling stories through primarily Asian American and Middle Eastern American lenses.” On Monday, February 8th at 7 pm, they join EPL in sponsoring the lecture “Shakespeare in the Middle East” featuring the former Syrian Minister of Culture and award-winning author Riad Ismat. One of six February programs planned as part of #DiscoverWill: Illinois Libraries Celebrate Shakespeare’s First Folio, “Shakespeare in the Middle East” will explore the lengthy performance history of the Bard’s work in the region and how it connects today to a broader Middle Eastern audience. In anticipation of this fascinating program, we recently spoke via email with Silk Road Rising’s Founding Artistic Director Jamil Khoury about the company’s 2007 adaptation of The Merchant of Venice and the challenges of translating Shakespeare for a non-Christian, Arabic-speaking audience.
David Pritchett is a photographer, educator, and the latest Evanston artist to be featured in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. His fascinating show Daily China was on display at EPL’s Main Library throughout November and explored China’s careening city buses, rural Buddhist temples, and street-side restaurants in an effort to “reflect a shared humanity amid the unique present of an ancient culture.” We recently spoke with Mr. Pritchett via email about how the Peace Corps inspired his art, his creative process, and his conviction that “there is more in cultural diversity that unites us than separates us.”