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Butler Visiting Writers Series Fall 2012

August 31, 2012 by Reader's Connection

The season of award-winning and much-anthologized authors begins with Margaret Atwood and finishes with Robert Pinsky.

A recent title by each author is featured here, but IndyPL has other titles by almost all of them, and you can click on the author’s name to search our catalog for them.

All programs in the Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series are free and open to the public.


Margaret Atwood
7:30 p.m. Sept. 12
Reilly Room

The Year of the Flood (2009)

The Year of the FloodToby goes up on the roof to survey the still and empty city. Birds are singing, but have any other humans survived the “Waterless Flood,” a swift and devastating pandemic? Ren, a younger woman alone in another abandoned building, wonders the same thing. Atwood returns to the decimated world she first explored in Oryx and Crake (2003), paralleling and intersecting the story line. Toby and Ren had found sanctuary among the God’s Gardeners, a resistance group that grows their own food and medicinal plants and keeps bees, while perched precariously on the ragged edge of a tyrannical corporate empire dispensing synthetic food, deliberately induced illnesses, and dubious hybrid creatures, such as the liobam–half-lion, half-lamb. Atwood’s villains are despicable, while her heroes are thorny, resilient, and contemplative, and their adventures hair-raising. Add to that Atwood’s playfully brilliant infusion of scientific knowledge and ecological and ethical insights into the Gardners’ lively theology. — Booklist


 Patricia Smith
Sept. 19
Time and location TBA

Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah: Poems (2012)

Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah :PoemsIn her title poem, Smith describes her mother and father debating what to call her. Smith’s mother bestowed on the poet a name fitting for a woman that would “never idly throat the Lord’s name or wear one/ of those thin, sparkled skirts that flirted with her knees./ She’d be a nurse or a third-grade teacher or a postal drone,/ jobs requiring alarm-clock discipline and sensible shoes.” But her father, though acquiescing, secretly called her Jimi Savannah, embodying “the blues-bathed moniker of a ball breaker, the name/ of a grown gal in a snug red sheath and unlaced All-stars.” This duality bursts forth in her poems about growing up on Chicago’s West Side, the place that lured her parents from Alabama promising a better life. The collection builds momentum with vivid, high-textured city scenes. “The city squared its teeth,” she writes and “smiled oil”; the chicken shack’s “slick cuisine served up in virgin white cardboard boxes with Tabasco/ nibbling the seams.” Motown saturates the language and weaves itself into Smith’s narratives. Focusing on the stinging memories of growing up black and a woman during the 1960s, one could overlook Smith’s mastery of rhyme rhythm and form, but it runs like an electric current throughout the collection. — Publishers Weekly

Blood Dazzler
“Ghazal”, from Smith’s earlier collection Blood Dazzler, appeared in this blog in 2010, with a note (more than you wanted to know, or stuff you already knew) about ghazals.



Peter Steinhart
7:30 p.m. Oct. 8
Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall

Steinhart is best known as a writer about natural history, and you can click on his name to see other books in our catalog that fit in that category, but I was intrigued by The Undressed Art: Why We Draw (2004)

The Undressed Art: Why We DrawSteinhart finds the compulsion to make images out to be “by turns erotic and puritanical, social and narcissistic, uplifting and depressing.”The act of drawing has been given a bum rap over the past half-century, he writes; it’s been diminished, disparaged, and dismissed by waves of abstraction and expressionism, by video and conceptual and installation art. Like outlaws, figurative artists hole up in small groups and drop-in sessions with zero commercial incentive, responding to some innate human impulse and seeking a personal vision like any other artist. Himself a drawer as well as a writer (previously in the purlieus of natural history), Steinhart willingly accepts that he is venturing into ineffable territory, but he seeks nonetheless to find verbal meaning in this kinship between spirit and substance, the burrowing for the hidden, the intensification of experience that figure-drawing gives to him. His thoughts are as intimate as a diary (though he will also make forays into brain chemistry in his search), often revolving around specific drawing classes. He is bracingly unself-conscious about the first flash of desire and anticipation that comes when the model disrobes, yet what he really wants to chew on is the recording and manipulation of experience, the containment of details, the way in which drawing allows a communication with the world, a connection, an empathy. — Kirkus Reviews


Eduardo C. Corral
7:30 p.m. Oct. 24
Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall

Slow Lightning: Poems (2012)

Slow Lightning: PoemsThe first Latino winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition is also gay, but he doesn’t write poésie engagée for either minority. He writes poems of experience and observation that frequently reference the suffering of illegal immigrants without sloganeering or bloody-shirt-waving. Technically, they’re dazzling and visually striking, ranging from sonnets to various unrhymed stanza-forms to free verse that splashes down the page or sprawls on it sidewise, bottom-to-top rather than left-to-right, or is pressed into columns by justified margins on both sides. In manner, they are realistic (see “Border Triptych”), fantastic (“Immigration and Naturalization Service Report #46,” a prose poem), surrealist (the first of two poems entitled “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome”), and hybrids of those three (“Poem after Frida Kahlo’s Painting The Broken Column”). He mixes colloquial Spanish and English, and he packs many, many lines with sharp, sensual, specific imagery–this is Technicolor poetry. When a poem is about his father or his lover, or when it touches sex, it purrs with affection, desire, and joy. Very engaging. — Booklist


Yiyun Li
7:30 p.m. Nov. 8
Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall

Gold Boy, Emerald Girl (2010)

Gold Boy, Emerald GirlThe nine brilliant stories in Li’s collection offer a frighteningly lucid vision of human fate. In the title story, motherless Siyu has long been in love with an older zoology professor, Dai, who suddenly wants Siyu, 38 and single, to marry Dai’s gay 42-year-old son, Hanfeng. In “A Man Like Him,” retired art teacher Fei embarks on a strange quest after reading a story about a Web site devoted to shaming a man who left his wife. Fei seeks out the man, needing to confide to him his own sordid brush with infamy. The collection’s magnificent centerpiece is “Kindness,” the novella-length reminiscence of a spiritually despondent math teacher named Moyan, whose bleak story begins with the emotional starvation she suffered from her adoptive parents and grimly continues over the years as two older women–an English teacher and Moyan’s army superior–attempt, unsuccessfully, to reach out to her. Li’s description of army life, and particularly her description of Moyan’s regiment’s march across Mount Dabi, is a bravura piece of writing, but it’s Moyan’s evolution from pitiable to borderline heroic (in her own way) that is Li’s greatest achievement. — Publishers Weekly


Robert Pinsky
7:30 p.m. Nov. 28
Reilly Room

Gulf Music (2007)

Gulf MusicIn the ravishing title poem in his first collection since Jersey Rain (2000), Pinsky–three-time poet laureate of the U.S.–creates a zydeco beat as he revisits the hurricane that all but destroyed Galveston, Texas, in 1900, and tells the story of a Jewish immigrant who enters America under a false name “through the still-wounded port.” Considering the long reach of our ancestors, he writes, “The past is not decent or orderly, it is made-up and devious.” But what else do we have but memories and story? In “The Anniversary,” one of many poems fueled by the shock waves of 9/11, Pinsky asks, “Whence our being? / In the dark roots of our music, impudent and profound?” Calling on Whitman and Dickinson, Ray Charles and Doctor John for backup, Pinsky, serious and seriously funny, riffs on the forgotten definitions of the word thing and the lost meanings of the dollar bill’s symbols. Contemplation of torture and prejudice is paired with an effort to grasp life, to perceive the “net of being,” and to bridge the gulf between past and present, the living and the dead. Pinsky is at his wily and brilliant best in this soulfully musical volume. — Booklist



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