January's Visitors

The author of The Dramatist's Toolkit (now in its fourth printing), Jeffrey Sweet's scripts for TV movies, primetime drama and comedy and daytime have been broadcast on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and A&E, in the process winning him a Writers Guild of America Award and an Emmy nomination. His plays have won the Outer Critics Circle Award, a Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Award, and an American Theatre Critics Association playwriting award (and two other nominations). He currently teaches writing for the Actors Studio. He will be giving an intensive weekend workship in playwrighting and screenwriting on January 25th and 26th. Contact Laura Dave for more information.

February's Visitors

Barbara Dafoe Whitehead

The author of The Divorce Culture, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead was born in Rochester, Minnesota. She received her B.A. at the University of Wisconsin and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Amercian social history at the University of Chicago. She writes extensively on issues of family, and child well-being for many publications, including the Atlantic Monthly, Amercian Enterprise, Commonweal, Woodrow Wilson Quarterly, Times Literary Supplement, Washington Post, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe. Her widely discussedcover story in April 1993 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, "Dan Quayle Was Right," was nominated for the National Magazine Award and won an Exceptional Merit in Media award for magazine commentary and news analysis from the National Women's Political caucus and Radcliffe College. Most recently she has been a Guest Scholar at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. She lives in Amherst, Massachussettes.

She will be giving a reading on Tuesday, February 4th

Link to The Philadelphia Inquirer's Review

Gerald Stein

Born in 1925, Gerald Stern published his first book of poems at age 46. Since then, he has written 8 more collections, the latest of which are Bread Without Sugar(1992) and Mercy (1995). He has won the Academy of American Poets' Lamont Poetry Prize for Lucky Life, the Bess Hoskin Award from Poetry magazine, The Paterson Poetry Prize, The Mellville Caine Award, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
" Gerald Stern has a night personality: I'd say about a quarter to twelve. The joy of his work is the joy of looking back on a long day and knowing there has been some craziness in it."
--Robert Bly

Gerald Stern will be reading at Writers House on Monday, February 24th, 4:30 Pm.

March's Visitors

Tom Raworth

Tom Raworth has been the most visible and important innovative poet in England since the sixties. His numerous books include Eternal Sections, Tottering State, Moving, Relation Ship, Catacoustics, and Writing. His poems have provided jolts of quickened perception and connection for decades.

Tom Raworth will be reading on Wednesday, March 5th, 4:30 PM.

Paul Hoover

Paul Hoover, born in Harrisburg, Va., is the author of Letters to Eistein Beginning Dear Albert (1979), Somebody Talks a Lot (1983), Nervous Songs (1986), Idea (1987), and the long poem The Novel (1991). It examines the dilemma of postmodern authorship by means of found texts, parodies of detectyive, adventure, and romance novels, and comments on authorship's "invented self."

His early work was strongly influenced by surrealist poetry, especially that of Henri Michaux and Robert Desnos, and by John Ashberry's The Tennis Court Oath. The poems from the 80's are more in the New York School vein of personability and eccentric artifice. He speaks against "a preordained pose of seiousness" in the writing of poems, favoring instead music, abstraction, structure, and what he calls "the generosity of inorganic form."

In the early to middle 1980s, Hoover was at the center of an experimental poetry revival in Chicago that included Maxine Chernoff and Elaine Equi, poets whose work is sardonic, urban, and imagist in the manner of the Chicago Imagist school of painters. Hoover's poem "Desire" is about both authorship and the political realities of Tiananmen Square. With Maxine Chernoff, Hoover edits the magazine New American Writing.

Paul Hoover will be reading Tuesday, March 18th, 5pm

Spalding Gray

Spalding Gray at the Annenberg Center on March 5 & 6, with his latest performance, It's a Slippery Slope, a Hilarious Monologue about his Life Philadelphia: A compelling storyteller with a spectacular way with words, Spalding Gray has become famous by talking about himself. Spalding Gray returns to perform his latest monologue, "It's a Slippery Slope," at the Annenberg Center on March 5 and 6, 1997. A chronicler with a wry, satiric edge, Spalding Gray's obsessions and experiences form the basis for his wildly funny and confessional monologues. The Washington Post described Gray's unique brand of performance, saying, "Gray fishes up much of theglory and chaos of our times....Talking about himself--with candor, humor, imagination and the unfailingly bizarre image--he ends up talking about all of us." It s a Slippery Slope recounts Gray's efforts learning to ski late in life, and also works in accounts of his struggle to keep his balance during the major turbulence in his personal life of late.

Spalding Gray brown bags his lunch on Thursday, March 6, noon-1:30pm

Alan Wald

Alan Wald, a professor of English and American Culture at the University of Michigan, is a specialist in 20th-century U.S. literary radicalism. He has published five books on aspects of radicalism, with special emphasis on the influence of Marxist ideas, the role of Jewish intellectuals, and the centrality of anti-racism. His best-known books are The New York Intellectuals (1987) and Writing from the Left (1994). Wald is also editor of a series of paperback reprints, The Radical Novel Reconsidered.

Paul Hoover will be reading on Tuesday, March 18, 5 PM.

Melba Joyce Boyd

Melba Joyce Boyd, Chair of the Department of Africana Studies at Wayne State University in Detroit, is the author of four books of poetry (most recently, Letters to Che, 1996). She is also the writer, producer and director of the documentary film, "The Black Unicorn: Dudley Randall and the Broadside Press." Through the lens of Dudley Randall, poet laureate of Detroit, the film touches upon civil rights, race riots, the Black Arts Movement, the labor movement, and the changing face of the Detroit cityscape.

Melba Joyce Boyd will be reading on Friday, March 28, 3 PM.

Bob Schultz

Bob Schultz from Madhouse Nudes has taught at Cornell, Virginia, and now at Luther College in Iowa. He is a prolific poet, novelist, essayist and critic.

Bob Schultz will read on monday, March 24th, 5:30 pm

April's Visitors

Michael Jennings and Jay Rogoff

Michael Jennings and Jay Rogoff both graduated from Penn in the 1970's as English majors, and both, coincidentally, went to Syracuse University for graduate work in creative writing. Michael Jennings' book is Totems, a collection of poems about animals based on the photographs of Scott Ian Barry whose work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, and in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Jennings' interest in animals began in southwestern Iran where he broke and trained horses, owned gazelles, a mongoose, and numerous dogs. He is an internationally recognized breeder of Siberian huskies. He teaches at Cayuga Community College in Upstate N.Y.

Jay Rogoff's first book is called The Cutoff, a sequence of poems about minor league baseball. It won the 1994 Word Works Washington Prize ($1000 and publication). He has most recently worked for Skidmore College as an administrator and teacher in the college's Inmate Higher Education Program, having also taught at Syracuse University and Lemone College. His work has been published in such magazines as The Georgia Review, The Hudson Review, Mademoiselle, The New Republic, and The Yale Review.

Mary Gordon

The Penn Women's Studies Program and The Judith Roth Berkowitz Endowed Lecturship in Women's Studies for 1997 present the acclaimed writer Mary Gordon.

She will give an original lecture on the topic: "Men, Women, Mothers, Food" on Thursday, APRIL 10th.

The lecture will be held @ 4:30 pm in Room 110 Annenberg, 3620 Walnut Street. There will be a reception immediately following.

John Wieners

John Wieners was born in Milton, Massachussetts in 1934, and received his B.A. from Boston College in 1954. He studied at Black Mountain College under Charles Olson and Robert Duncan from 1955-56. He returned to Boston where he brought out three issues of a literary magazine, Measure, over the next several years. From 1958-60 he lived in San Francisco and was an active participant in the SF Poetry Renaissance movement. Sun & Moon Press has recently published John Wieners' journal 707 Scott Street written during the period he lived in San Francisco. Since 1970, he has lived in Boston, where he has been active in publishing and education cooperatives, political action committees, and the gay liberation movement. Black Sparrow has published two collections of Wieners' poetry, Selected Poems: 1956-84 and Cultural Affairs in Boston, both edited by Raymond Foye.

Charles Shively

Charley Shively is a poet, teacher, and editor living in Boston. He has been involved for many years with two newspapers: Fag Rag (Boston) and Gay Sunshine (SF). He is the author of two books on Whitman: Calamus Lovers: Walt Whitman's Working-Class Camerados and Drum Beats: Walt Whitman's Civil War Boy Lovers both published by Gay Sunshine Press.

Alan Davies

Alan Davies is author of the poetry books Rave (Roof, 1994), Candor (O Books, 1990), Name (This, 1986) and Active 24 Hours (Roof). His most recent chapbooks are Sei Shonagon (Hole, 1995), and an untitled collaboration with the photographer M. M. Winterford (Zasterle, 1994). Signage, a collection of writings on and about poetry and poets was published in 1986 by Roof. Originally from Canada, Davies has lived in Boston and Manhattan, and is currently living in Cold Spring, New York.

Lamont B. Steptoe

Lmont B. Steptoe is a poet/ photographer/ publisher and the author of seven books of poetry, including American Morning Mourning, Mad Minute, Dusty Road, and Uncle's South China Sea Nightmare. His latest collection, A Hambine Gospel is soon to be published by Whirlwind Press. Steptoe's work has appeared in Spirit and Flame, Writing Between the Lines, Aloud: Voices of the Nuyorcians Poets Cafe, In Search of Color Everywhere . In 1995-96 Steptoe was a literary fellowhip recipient at the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

Steptoe will be reading on Wednesday, April 9th at 5 pm.

Joan Retallack

Joan Retallack is the author of four books of poetry, as well as the fascinating series of conversations between John Cage and herself, Musicage. Retallack is one of the most astute and lively artists influenced by Cage. Her books reflect a serious brush with chance, but I should add that this does not mean that she produces a simulacrum of chaos. Her work is witty, earnest, open to the swerves that come from an acceptance of the quirky material of language.

Here is an excerpt from her dialogue on "Poethics" (as distinguished from "Poetics"):

One speaker has mentioned Sartre's notion that "if you don't intervene, the language will go on speaking by itself." The second speaker agrees and says: "You are in its grip. The grip of what you know you should do. Your style is identified and you are doomed to execute it, and then to reenact the fatalism of that execution over and over again. No one will dispute that you are a poet. [*pause*] Your poethical work begins when you no longer wish to shape materials (words, visual elements, sounds) into legitimate progeny of your own poetics. When you are released from filling-in the delimiting forms. This swerve, of course, comes about only as the result of a wrenching crisis. I don't mean to be dramatic, but you might not survive it. At least, not as a poet. You may at this point pick up some other line of work. If you do persist, though, the patterns in your work may become flexible, permeable, conversational, exploratory.... It will change your sense of the relation of your language to the mess'--the world beyond the page, everyday life and death. And this will in turn affect the world of the page . . .

And here is a page from Icarus Falling:

what if when *we* died *our* feet stuck up in the air like pigs in the mud on the moon Pleiades n you are set n I lie like a rug alone with the father wanting a son dressed like theboysheneverwas identified in the translation as fair

Ianthes lover ready to die for theher thefamily thetribe therace thenation thelaw the onthemoney big idea natures surrogatetail won't tell how or why or why native Pig Latin speakers do not come plain that thegods are cruel.

Retallack's writing invites us, without cruelty, into open fields of unprefabricated meditation. Take a break at this overstressed time. Retallack, Writers House, Tuesday, 4:30.

Dick Higgins

Dick Higgins is a composer, painter, translator and art theorist. Happenings and Fluxus, Intermedia, Something Else Press, these are a few of the terms associated with Dick Higgins. He remarks "I find I never feel quite complete unless I'm doing all the arts--visual, musical and literary. I guess that's why I developed the term 'intermedia,' to cover my works that fall conceptually between these." The founder of Something Else Press he published works by Alan Kaprow, Gertrude Stein, Marshall McLuhan, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Emmett Williams, and Ray Johnson among others. His forty-seven books include Poems Plain & Fancy (Station Hill Press) and A Book About Love & War & Death (Something Else). He edited and annotated Giordano Bruno's On the Composition of Images, Signs & Ideas (Willis, Locker & Owens) and he is a recent recipient of a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. He has two forthcoming books: Merle Armitage and the Modern Book (David Godine) and 2001: Modernism Since Post-Modernism (San Diego State University Press).

John Felstiner

John Felstiner's sensitive and accessible book Paul Celan is the first critical biography of Celan in any language. It offers new translations of well-known and little-known poems-including a chapter on Celans' famous "Deathfugue" -plus his speeches, prose fiction, and letters. The books also presents hitherto unpublished photos of the poet and his circle.

John Felstiner, who teaches English and Jewish studies at Stanford University, is also the author of Translating Neruda: The Way To Macchu Picchu and The Lies of Art: Max Beerbohms Parody and Caricature.

"Felstiner has done the impossible integrated Celans life and poetry without stinting either. The full weight and agony of the poets fate as Jew and survivor are captured. Felstiner translated with care and caring the major poems and makes them accessible by a commentary that scrupulously records the occasions to which they are linked and the literary allusions they encode. The scholar becomes a poet writing about the greatest of the post-war German poets." -- Geoffrey Hartman

"Felstiner's book on Paul Celan is, on every level, superb: it is essential to anyone interested in the work of one of the greatest and most moving Jewish poets of our turbulent time." Elie Wiesel

"An absolutely essential study of one of the genuinely great, and in so many ways enigmatic, poets of our time, a literary biography in the best sense informative, and penetratingly interpretive." -- John Hollander

For more information on John Felistiner, click HERE .