Writers’ Series to host Pulitzer Prize nominee

The UNA Writers’ Series will host Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer and MacArthur Fellow Ishmael Reed and his daughter, Tennessee Reed, a poet and memoirist, for the 2012 event March 19 and 20 in the GUC performance center.

UNA film studies professor Dr. William Verrone—author of “The Avant Garde Feature Film: A Critical History” and “Adaptation and the Avant Garde”—will give a presentation about Ishmael Reed’s work in film and screenwriting—a somewhat lesser known aspect of his work—to kick off the series March 19 at 2 p.m. in the GUC performance center, said Chair of the Writers’ Series Committee Pam Kingsbury, a UNA professor of English.

Tennessee Reed will read selected poems March 20 at 11 a.m. in the performance center.

“Tennessee has been writing poetry since fifth or sixth grade,” she said. “She’s primarily a poet. She cites her dad as a major influence.”

At 12:30 p.m. March 20, Ishmael Reed—originally from Chattanooga and currently living in Oakland, Calif.—will read from selected works, Kingsbury said.

“Reed will be reading from his newest novel, ‘Juice!’, and some poetry from new and selected works,” she said.

A book signing and reception will follow the readings in the performance center at 2 p.m. March 20.

Every year, the Writers’ Series hosts accomplished writers to share their works and knowledge about the art of writing, according to the Writers’ Series’ webpage.

Ishmael Reed is one of the leading African-American writers of his generation, Kingsbury said.

“He’s been described by critics as the most written about African-American writer—alongside Toni Morrison—since Ralph Ellis,” she said. “He’s been the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant, a Pulitzer Prize nomination and (two) National Book Award nominations.”

Having a writer of the caliber of Ishmael Reed is exciting, Kingsbury said.

“We booked Reed back in September,” she said. “He’s been on our short wish list for a while, so we’re very excited.”

Kingsbury said the committee thinks Ishmael Reed will have a wide appeal for the UNA community.

“We think he will appeal across the board because he fits in several genres,” she said. “He writes everything—he’s an essayist, fiction writer, poet, commentator, editor and critic and he also writes screenplays. He has collaborated with many other disciplines.”

Ishmael Reed has received wide acclaim throughout his career as a writer, Kingsbury said.

“Harold Bloom named his book, ‘Mumbo Jumbo,’ as one of the 500 most important books of the western canon,” she said.

His book of poems, “Conjure,” was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, two of his books have been nominated for National Book awards and Gale Research Co., named his poem, “Beware Do Not Read This Poem” one of the “approximately 20 poems that teachers and librarians have identified as the most frequently studied in literature courses,” according to the Writers’ Series’ webpage.

The Writers’ Series has a long history of bringing famous writers to UNA, Kingsbury said.

“We’re coming up on the 30th year of the Writer’s Series at UNA,” she said. “That makes us one of the longest-running series in the state.”