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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

“Are you on TV or something?” Maryland Crabs with Writers Edward P. Jones and E. Ethelbert Miller

The latest installment in our occasional series of blog posts from members of the HoCoPoLitSo board.

I first met Edward P. Jones in 1994 when he accepted an invitation from HoCoPoLitSo to come to Columbia to read for Howard County residents.  His first book, one of short stories about the invisible people of non-tourist Washington, Lost in the City, had been receiving wide acclaim.  It was my job to drive him from his hotel to the reading venue.  He wrote in my copy of Lost in the City, “Thanks for escorting me around.  This has been one of the best days I have had in a long time.”

Our next meeting was in 2005 when he read for us from his ground breaking novel The Known World.  He had read to an appreciative audience on the campus of Howard Community College on a Friday night and stayed over to appear for a taping of HoCoPoLitSo’s literary program, The Writing Life the next day.  He was to be interviewed by poet, E. Ethelbert Miller.

Saturday morning, I picked up Jones at the Columbia Sheraton to drive him to HCC campus for the taping.  On the way, he asked me if I knew a place where we could stop and get some steamed crabs later on.  He said he doesn’t get to visit Maryland often but when he does, he makes it a point to buy some crabs.  So, while Miller and Jones went into taping, I left the studio to call my wife to ask about a crab place.  She told me that there was an excellent place just off Route 1 in Laurel that served the best crabs between Columbia and DC, the Bottom of the Bay.

When the taping was over, Jones, Miller and I got into my car for the trip to Laurel.  We found the restaurant with no trouble.  It was in an unremarkable strip mall and had both a sit-down restaurant and a carryout store which doubled as a convenience store with the usual fare that convenience stores carry – beef jerky, chips, soda, cigarettes, chewing tobacco and cold beer and cheap wine.

We placed our order of one dozen crabs and asked that they be seasoned with Old Bay.  While we waited, Jones called our attention to the beef jerky on the display and noted that he had never tasted it and wanted to know if either Miller or I had. We both shook our heads “no” and chuckled.

While we waited for Jones’ order of crabs, two young men perhaps in their late twenties entered the store to buy some beer.  One of the men turned to us and asked, “Aren’t you somebody important, or something?”

Being the “host”, I thought I should be the one to answer, so I said, “This is Edward P. Jones and this is E. Ethelbert Miller.  They’re both poets.”

The other man asked, “Are you on TV or something?”

I replied, “They just finished taping a TV show, but they do not have a regular program.”

The young man followed with, “We don’t see folks around here in suits that much, so I thought you were, like, you know, somebody really important.”

At that moment, the man behind the counter announced our order was ready.

I grabbed the steaming bag of crabs from the counter and said to the young men, “Well, we are sorry to disappoint you.”

We left the store, got into my car, and headed for DC.  Miller asked Jones if he was going to eat all of those crabs by himself.  Jones said, “Not in one sitting; but by Sunday evening they should be all gone.” Miller and I laughed, knowingly and perhaps a little enviously.

By David Barrett
Ex-Officio, HoCoPoLitSo Board

Pictured above at the taping of The Writing Life ( left to right, back row to front): David Barrett, Ellen Conroy Kennedy, Tara Hart, Edward P. Jones and E. Ethelbert Miller.

Now online: Belinda McKeon in Conversation with Colm Tóibín on HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life.

The episode of HoCoPoLitSo’s TV show The Writing Life, featuring Belinda McKeon hosting Colm Tóibín, is available through February for online viewing at http://www.howardcc.edu/Visitors/hcctv/programming/writinglife.html. In town for the 33rd annual Evening of Irish Music & Writing this time last year, the two sat down to have a literary conversation in Howard Community College’s TV studio. Through the half hour, they discuss Tóibín’s books and shed light on his work as a writer.

Tóibín’s list of achievements is long, his talent, vast. He is known and awarded for his novels and short stories and for his journalism and literary criticism, as well. This was his second appearance for HoCoPoLitSo’s Irish Evening.

Belinda McKeon reading the Form and Structure issue of Little Patuxent Review.

Playwright and novelist Belinda McKeon’s debut novel Solace, published last year, has won the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book of the Year (2011) and Ireland’s Sunday Independent recognized her with its Best Newcomer Award.

The annual Irish Evening is a perennial favorite and a highpoint to each HoCoPoLitSo season. This year a reading by memoirist and novelist Hugo Hamilton will be followed by the Irish music of the Narrowbacks accompanied by traditional Irish step dancers on Friday, February 17th at Smith Theater on the campus of Howard Community College in Columbia. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets online.

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Watch the episode: http://www.howardcc.edu/Visitors/hcctv/programming/writinglife.html

Note: this episode aired on the Howard Community Website for the month of February 2012. Episodes are featured on that site for a month at time, each new month brings a new episode or encore performance. To visit a growing and permanent archive of The Writing Life episodes online, visit the HoCoPoLitSo YouTube Channel.

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