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Binge on literature with The Writing Life marathon

If we’re lucky, we’re stuck in our houses, fantasizing about walking unmasked down the aisles of the library, or walking up to an author and (gasp!) shaking their hand after a reading. But we’ll have to wait a while for those in-person literary dreams to come true. Instead, on these chilly spring days, take a walk over to YouTube, and check out a few The Writing Life episodes.

Or if you’re in for the long haul (and who among us isn’t binging television shows nowadays?), Howard Community College’s Dragon Digital Television will show a 24-hour marathon of HoCoPoLitSo’s writer-to-writer interview shows. The Writing Life will air from 6 a.m. May 3 to 6 a.m. May 4. http://carousel.howardcc.edu/cablecastapi/live?channel_id=1&use_cdn=true

Check the schedule below, which features a showing of our hour-long show with Seamus Heaney, for which HoCoPoLitSo recently acquired the rights. Heaney talks about the politics and poetics of Northern Ireland, laughs a lot, recites “Digging” when Ellen Kennedy requests it, and answers questions from a Smith Theatre audience. Truly something to lift your spirits.

May 3

6 a.m. Theo Dorgan and Paula Meehan. Meehan and Dorgan, a married couple of Irish poets, talk about Seamus Heaney, read their own works dedicated to Heaney, and talk about cultural exchange in poetry. “My own sense is that poets are made, not out of fluency, but out of the fractures in a culture,” Meehan says.

6:30 a.m. Taylor Branch hosted by Timothy Jenkins. In 2000, at the time of this show’s recording with host and historian Timothy Jenkins, Branch had written two of his trilogy of books, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Parting the Waters: American in the King Years 1954-1963, and the award-winning Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-1965. These stories, Branch said, are “quintessentially American.”

7 a.m. The Poetry of Sterling Brown. In this 1994 edition of The Writing Life, poet Roland Flint speaks with Michael S. Harper, a Brown University professor of English and the Rhode Island poet laureate. The two poets discuss the influential poet and Howard University professor Sterling Brown, considered the dean of African-American poetry. Harper reads many of Brown’s poems, including “After Winter.”

7:30 a.m. Poetry Quartet. Henry Taylor, E. Ethelbert Miller, Ann Darr, and Hilary Tham, four Washington, D.C., area poets who started with publishing their work in small presses, talk about the value of that enterprise to keep literature alive. They also discuss the value of poetry slams, divulge the inspirations for their work, and read many of their own poems.

8 a.m. Seamus Heaney hosted by George O’Brien. Recorded in 1988, this interview with Seamus Heaney touches on his childhood in rural Ireland, the politics of Northern Ireland, his poetic craft and the natural world’s influence on his work. With his arm slung over the back of the chair onstage, Heaney talks, reads, recites, and laughs.

9 a.m. Carolyn Forché hosted by Grace Cavalieri. In this 2016 edition of HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life, poet Grace Cavalieri talks with Carolyn Forché, the writer and anthologist who coined the term “poetry of witness.” They speak about Forché’s Czechoslovakian grandmother, her beginnings in the world of human rights and poetry, and working to anthologize poetry of witness.

9:30 a.m. Edith Pearlman hosted by Carrie Brown. In this edition of HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life, novelist Carrie Brown talks with short story writer Edith Pearlman, who won the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award for her collection Binocular Vision.

10 a.m. Emma Donoghue hosted by Mary Kay Zuravleff. Emma Donoghue talks with fellow novelist Mary Kay Zuravleff about the role of music and history in her work, as well as writing the screenplay of Room. She reads from both Room and Frog Music.

10:30 a.m. Four Poets Laureate. Roland Flint, then serving as the Maryland Poet Laureate, hosts past poets laureate Lucille Clifton, Linda Pastan, and Reed Whittemore. All friends, the poets discuss the role and possibilities of the poet laureate position, as well as the craft of writing poetry, in a half-hour of good conversation and great poetry.

11 a.m. Patricia Smith hosted by Joseph Ross. Poet Joseph Ross speaks with poet Patricia Smith, a spoken word poet who found success with her book Blood Dazzler, a collection of poems chronicling Hurricane Katrina. Smith reads “8 a.m., Sunday, August 28, 2005,” a poem in the hurricane’s voice.

11:30 a.m. Stanley Plumly interviews Rita Dove. Rita Dove, a Pulitzer Prize-winner and former National Poet Laureate, speaks with Maryland Poet Laureate Stanley Plumly about her latest book, Sonata Mulattico. The book tells the story, through multiple narrative poems in different voices, of George Bridgetower, an Afro-Polish child prodigy violinist who studied with Haydn.

12 p.m. Israeli Poems of War and Peace. Poet and professor Michael Collier talks with poets Moshe Dor and Barbara Goldberg about their 1997 book of Israeli poems and translations, After the First Rain: Israeli Poems on War and Peace.

12:30 p.m. Tribute to Josephine Jacobsen. In this edition of HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life, poets Michael Collier, Lucille Clifton, and Elizabeth Spires talk about their friend and colleague, the late Josephine Jacobsen (1908 – 2003), a remarkable poet and short story writer from Baltimore.

1 p.m. Mark Doty hosted by Sue Ellen Thompson. Poet Sue Ellen Thompson speaks with poet and memoirist Mark Doty about memory, mackerel, AIDS, Labradors, and the challenge of writing about all of those topics. Doty, the author of nine books of poetry and three memoirs, is known for his descriptive power.

1:30 p.m. Taylor Mali hosted by Chris August. In this 2015 rapid-fire edition of The Writing Life, performance poet Chris August talks with slam poet champion and education activist Taylor Mali about his poetic beginnings, his father’s influence, the strategies of slams, and white male privilege.

2 p.m. Mary O’Malley hosted by Jean Nordhaus. Irish poet Mary O’Malley speaks with Jean Nordhaus, and opens with her mythological-based poem “The Boning Hall,” from her collection of the same name, which addresses Adrienne Rich’s classic poem “Diving into the Wreck.” The eldest daughter of a Connemara fisherman, with nine younger siblings, O’Malley is focused not only on “the mythos of the sea,” she says, but “the purity of the language.”

2:30 p.m. Lucille Clifton hosted by Roland Flint. Former Maryland poet laureate Roland Flint hosts Lucille Clifton, who won the National Book Award for her book Blessing the Boats. Clifton reads many of her iconic early poems, including “Good Times”, “The 1st”, “flowers”; “lucy one eye”, “forgiving my father”, and “carved on a gravestone in a southern baptist churchyard.”

3 p.m. “Sunset Baby”. Dramaturg Khalid Long and Rep Stage director Joseph Ritsch talk about playwright Dominique Morisseau. The two theater experts talk about how her play “Sunset Baby” addresses the generational divide in families in this play, the role of fathers and the centrality of forgiveness.

3:30 p.m. E. Ethelbert Miller hosts Joseph Ross. In this edition of HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life, poet Joseph Ross speaks with host and fellow poet E. Ethelbert Miller about the role of writers as activists and memory keepers, the ideas of faith and storytelling through poetry, and the craft of putting together a manuscript.

4 p.m. Joseph Ross hosts E. Ethelbert Miller. Poet Joseph Ross talks to “the dean of D.C. poets,” E. Ethelbert Miller, author of several poetry collections, memoirs and anthologies, and co-editor of Poet Lore. Miller discusses the origin and span of his newest book of collected poems.

4:30 p.m. Marilyn Chin hosted by Joseph Ross. Marilyn Chin, a Chinese-American poet, speaks with poet and teacher Joseph Ross about her poems of the body, protest, and family. Chin begins by reading “Beijing Spring,” written to the young man who held up his hand to fend off the tanks on Tiananmen Square, as an invocation for all youth around the world to speak up.

5 p.m. Li-Young Lee hosted by Michael Collier. Poet Michael Collier speaks with Li-Young Lee in 1995 about poetry, prayerful attitudes, and unconscious states. Lee reads his poem “Epistle” to start off the show.

5:30 p.m. Mike McCormack hosted by Cóilín Parsons. Novelist Mike McCormack speaks with Georgetown University professor Cóilín Parsons about his craft, especially his novel in one breath, Solar Bones. A devoted experimentalist, McCormack resists the label of surrealist: “I’m holding this side of the surrealist’s line. I’m too structurally minded to give myself over to it, but I’ll bring it right up to the doorstep.”

Take it from the top again, band! Starting at 6 p.m., the whole line-up repeats.

Enjoy these talks, learn a bit about writing and reading, then you can go back to Tiger King.

Susan Thornton Hobby
The Writing Life Producer

Two TWL Episodes Now On YouTube: Rita Dove and Israeli Poems of War and Peace

Rita Dove discusses a musical life in verse

In this edition of HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life, Rita Dove, a Pulitzer Prize-winner and former National Poet Laureate, speaks with Maryland Poet Laureate Stanley Plumly about her latest book, Sonata Mulattico. The book tells the story, through multiple narrative poems in different voices, of George Bridgetower, an Afro-Polish child prodigy violinist who studied with Haydn. Beethoven dedicated a sonata to Bridgetower, “my crazy mulatto,” but later quarreled with him over a girl, and shunned him. Bridgetower fell into anonymity. The book is long and complex, Dove says, but “This is the only way to encompass this life and make it seem not a curiosity, but an essence of humanity.”

Israeli Poems of War and Peace

In this edition of HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life, poet and professor Michael Collier talks with poets Moshe Dor and Barbara Goldberg about their 1997 book of Israeli poems and translations, After the First Rain: Israeli Poems on War and Peace. Goldberg reads her translation of Ariel Kaufman’s “How My Brother is Cain,” and Dor reads the Hebrew version. Goldberg reads six more poems from the collection, including Amir Gilboa’s “My Brother Was Silent,” with the final, haunting line, drawn from the book of Genesis, “His blood cried out from the ground.” Goldberg concludes with a poem that sums up the Israeli desire for a long-coveted peace, Yehuda Amichai’s “Wildpeace.” This program was recorded in 1999.

Lucille Clifton & Carolyn Kizer Talk Writing

Now available for worldwide viewing on HoCoPoLitSo’s YouTube Channel, Lucille Clifton and Carolyn Kizer talking about writing.

Lucille Clifton and Carolyn Kizer:

In this first ever edition of HoCoPoLitSo’s “The Writing Life,” taped in 1985, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carolyn Kizer and National Book Award-winning poet Lucille Clifton interview each other and read their work. Clifton, who died in 2010, and Kizer speak about the way a place affects writing poetry, about the death of Clifton’s husband from cancer, about the restrictions on women and women poets. Clifton reads “Atlantic is a sea of bones,” a poem about the women of South Africa called “there,” and “sorrow song,” about violence and responsibility in the world. Clifton also reads “blooming,” “I’m going back to my true identity,” and “album.” Kizer reads “Bitch,” “To an Unknown Poet,” “Exodus” and talks about the structure and form of poetry, especially in her poem “Afternoon Happiness.”

“All of our writing is a trying to say,” Clifton says. “We make a mistake if we start saying that our writing is a saying, because it is at best a trying to say.”

HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life: A Number of Additional Episodes Now Online.

You’ll find a number of new episodes have recently been posted onto the HoCoPoLitSo YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/hocopolitso.

In part, you’ll find:

  • Novelist Carrie Brown speaks with short story writer Edith Pearlman. (2012)
  • Michael Dirda speaks with Marie Arana about her memoir Marie Arana speaks with writer and editor Michael Dirda about her memoir, “American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood,” and the ghost of culture. (2001)
  • Sue Ellen Thompson in conversation with Mark Doty about on memory, mackerel and verse. (2010)
  • Claire Keegan talks of the art of subtraction with Terence Winch. (2010)

Look also for episodes featuring Colm Tóibin, Manil Suri, Mary Gordan, Li-Young Lee, Alice McDermott and Joy Harjo. And here is Michael Harper talking about the poetry of Sterling Brown with Roland Flint:





If you are logged into YouTube through your own account, you can follow the HoCoPoLitSo channel and get updates every time there are new posts.

HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life archives, featuring contemporary writers in conversation with other writers, are being digitized and put online as a resource for the world over. As with any such project, this effort can use your support. If you are willing and able, please make a donation to HoCoPoLitSo to ensure the continued success of this project and its contribution to the world’s literary heritage. Thank you.

Gwendolyn Brooks — Watch a Treasure from HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life Archive Now Online

Gwendolyn_Brooks_croppedIn this edition of HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing life, revered American poet Gwendolyn Brooks sat down in 1986 to talk with Alan Jabbour, director of the Library of Congress’ American Folklore division, and E. Ethelbert Miller, poet and director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University.

Brooks was the Library of Congress’ 29th consultant in poetry, and tells the story in this program of winning the Pulitzer at age 32, and getting the phone call in the dark because the electric company had cut off their power because they couldn’t afford to pay the bill. She recites “We Real Cool,” a poem she says has lasted because of its “insouciance and staccato effect.” She talks about her introduction to black nationalism, feminism and James Baldwin. Brooks says, “I like for blacks to be proud of what they have come from. They need to learn they have much to be proud of.”


HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life archives, featuring contemporary writers in conversation with other writers, are being digitized and put online as a resource for the world over. As with any such project, this effort can use your support. If you are willing and able, please make a donation to HoCoPoLitSo to ensure the continued success of this project and its contribution to the world’s literary heritage. Thank you.

Streaming This Month at HCC: E. E. Miller Hosts David Mura on HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life

Streaming this month on the Howard Community College’s website is an encore episode of HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life where E. Ethelbert Miller hosts a conversation with David Mura.

In the edition from 2007, E. Ethelbert Miller engages award-winning performance poet and memoirist David Mura in a fascinating conversation about the stories, silences, research, and imaginative work that comprise his writing life. Mura reflects on the family legacies of Japanese internment, relocations, and assimilation that influence his double racial identity and consciousness, as well as the influences of photography, jazz, travel, and education on his writing and performance. He reads from and references his poetry, Relocations, The Colors of Desire and Minneapolis Public, and nonfiction, Song for Uncle Tom, Tonto and Mr. Moto, Where the Body Meets Memory, and Turning Japanese.

Click here to view the stream. This particular stream will available online through July (2012). To view more editions of  The Writing Life, visit the HoCoPoLitSo YouTube channel where you will find a growing selection of editions from the archives.

The Writing Life is made possible in part by grants from the Maryland State Arts Council and the Howard County Arts Council.

Now Online: The Writing Life with Colum McCann on HoCoPoLitSo’s YouTube Channel.

In this edition of HoCoPoLitSo’s “The Writing Life,” poet and musician Terence Winch talks with Irish novelist Colum McCann (winner of the 2009 National Book Award for Let the Great World Spin) after his second novel debuted to great acclaim. McCann, who grew up middle class in Dublin, talks about his two-year bicycle trek around America, gathering stories as a journalist, that helped turn him into a novelist. And while he counts Irish writers as influences, he mostly read Kerouac and Burroughs as a teen.





McCann reads from his first novel, Songdogs, and from This Side of Brightness, about the New York subway tunnels and the homeless who make their homes there, as well as the sand hogs who built the tunnels. McCann spent a year in the tunnels, and counts listening as the best way to research. “I don’t want to write about my family, about me. I think it’s much more liberating to be in the imagination. People always tell to write what you know about, but I say no, write about what you don’t know about.”

Visit www.youtube.com/user/hocopolitso to view all the episodes currently available online. Enjoy and give us feedback, please, so we can improve this award-winning series.

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