The University of Arizona’s Department of English continued their UA Prose Series with a visit by National Endowment for the Arts award winner Nicole Walker at the UA Poetry Center.
Students, faculty, and other visitors gathered to hear Walker. After her reading, she followed with a Q&A.
Questions were asked regarding the influences and the inspirations behind her work. The evening concluded and audience members were given a chance to purchase Walker’s work and have it signed.
The Prose Series, which began in 2001, showcases the work of writers by having them come to campus for in-person readings. It’s open to the UA community and members of the public.
This school year’s guests have included Venita Blackburn, James Alan Hall, and most recently, Walker. The last guest of the school year will be Cherríe Moraga.
Manuel Muñoz, a UA associate professor of English in the creative writing program and the director of the Prose Series, said the representation among the speakers is important to him. This is something he takes into consideration when choosing guests.
“For me, I thought it was important to identify somebody who's essentially early career. So in September, we had Venita Blackburn. She was here, it was her first book,” Munoz said.
Diversity and location also play a big part in his decision process, according to Muñoz.
“It was important to me to bring somebody who's queer-identified," Muñoz said. "That's how James Allen Hall came to be our second reader. Somebody who's in-state or regional is also important to me; that's how Nicole Walker came to be.”
The final guest of the series will be Moraga, who also has a new book set to release. She was connected to Muñoz through a mutual link.
“We share the same agent. So I found out that she had a book coming, and I thought, 'You know, if there's any way at all that you can get Cherríe Moraga to come here right when the book comes out’,” Muñoz said. “Luck was on our side. I think her book comes out April second or April fourth, and her visit with us is going to be on the 11th of April.”
The creative writing and English faculty also keep in mind whom students would want to see when deciding which speakers should come to campus, Muñoz said.
“It's like, well, if everyone really likes this one writer that we've been teaching, maybe we should bring them in for a reading some time,” said Ander Monson, director of the English MFA program and former director of the Prose Series. “So yeah, I mean, we're happy to get input and to try to put on the best show we can.”
Like Muñoz, Monson also has an interesting connection with one of the guests.
“Nicole [Walker] and I go back about 13 or 14 years,” Monson said. “We knew each other from Grand Valley State where I hired her for a nonfiction position, and I was on the faculty there.”
The series is a product of a partnership between the UA Department of English and the UA Poetry Center.
“It's a great partnership between us and the English department that we're able to bring these prose writers here,” said Sarah Gzemski, publicity and publications coordinator for the Poetry Center. “We're always happy to have prose readers here; we're all writers and readers here, and we're not confined to genre.”
Faculty members said they hope others will get "a sense of curiosity about the kinds of things that are out in the world," from the series.
"We try to pick people who are writers who could have appeal to a wide range of disciplines across the campus,” Muñoz said.
For Monson, it’s about bringing words to life.
“We all teach undergraduates also, and it's really exciting to be able to show undergraduates that literature is a living art being written by people that are alive and you can go see them on Thursday night,” Monson said.
For more information on the Poetry Center or their events, you can look at their website and outlets like their emails or events calendar.
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