Join the MFA in Writing & Publishing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts as they celebrate the end of the 2020-21 school year with a final faculty reading.
The reading will be held on Zoom from 5:30–7:30 pm ET on Friday, May 14, as part of the Alumnx Weekend and Graduation festivities. Faculty readers include Rita Banerjee, Ariel Francisco, Rob Spillman, David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Miciah Bay Gault, Erin Stalcup, Frances Cannon, James Scott, Tim Horvath, and Sean Prentiss.
This event is free and open to the public, so join us to hear from our beloved writers and poets!
Rita Banerjee will be be featured on Goddard College’s “Bon Mot” radio program from 5-6:30 pm EST on Sunday, February 28, 2021. The radio program will air on 91.1 and 91.7 FM Vermont. The show is hosted by Rick Argan, and Banerjee will be be reading from her poetry collection Echo in Four Beats and her essay “Birth of Cool” from her new nonfiction manuscript on race, sex, politics, and cool. The show can be live-streamed here: http://www.wgdr.org/ or listened to via podcast archive here: http://archive.wgdr.org/
The Ruth Stone Foundation just launched its second issue of Iterant, an interactive multi-media poetry and prose journal. The October 2020 issue of Iterant, “But We Keep Fighting” features the poetry, prose, audio recordings, and art of Anne Carson, Matthew Zapruder, Timothy Liu, Sharon Olds, Dara Weir, Charles Mason III, and Rita Banerjee among other poets and artists.
Rita Banerjee is the Director of the MFA in Writing & Publishing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and Executive Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. She’s the author of several books including CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing (C&R Press, 2018), the poetry collection Echo in Four Beats (FLP, 2018), which was nominated for the 2019 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize at the Academy of American Poets, the novella “A Night with Kali” in Approaching Footsteps (SPR, 2016), and the poetry chapbook Cracklers at Night (FLP, 2010). She is the co-writer of Burning Down the Louvre (2021), a documentary film about race, intimacy, and tribalism in the United States and in France. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA from the University of Washington, and her work appears in PANK, Nat. Brut., Isele Magazine, Poets & Writers, Academy of American Poets, Los Angeles Review of Books, Vermont Public Radio, Electric Literature, Iterant, The Nervous Breakdown, Hunger Mountain, and elsewhere. She is currently working on a memoir and manifesto on how young women of color keep their cool against social, sexual, and economic pressure.
David Shields is the internationally bestselling author of twenty-two books, including Reality Hunger (recently named one of the 100 most important books of the last decade by LitHub), The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead (New York Times bestseller), Black Planet (finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and Other People: Takes & Mistakes (NYTBR Editors’ Choice). Nobody Hates Trump More Than Trump: An Intervention was published in 2018; The Trouble With Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power appeared in 2019. James Franco’s film adaptation of I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel, which Shields co-wrote and co-stars in, was released in 2017 (available now on Amazon Prime, iTunes/Apple TV, Vudu, Vimeo, Kanopy, and Google Play). Shields wrote, produced, and directed Lynch: A History, a 2019 documentary about Marshawn Lynch’s use of silence, echo, and mimicry as key tools of resistance (rave reviews in the New Yorker, Nation, and dozens of other publications; film festival awards all over the world; available soon on Sundance TV/AMC and First Look Media). A recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships and a senior contributing editor of Conjunctions, Shields has published fiction and nonfiction in the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Esquire, Yale Review, Salon, Slate, Tin House, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Believer, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Best American Essays. His work has been translated into two dozen languages.
Erin Stalcup is the author of the story collection And Yet It Moves and the novel Every Living Species. Her fiction has appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Sun, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere, and her creative nonfiction was listed as a Notable Essay in The Best American Essays. Erin received her MFA from Warren Wilson College’s Program for Writers. She has taught in community colleges, universities, and prisons in New York City, North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, and Vermont, and is the Cofounder of Waxwing and the Editor of Hunger Mountain.
The Nervous Breakdown recently published a conversation between David Shields and Rita Banerjee on Shields’s book Nobody Hates Trump More Than Trump. During their discussion, David and Rita unpack Trump’s complicated family and personal psychology, what makes the president tick, Trump’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, & how to disrupt Trump this fall! Take a listen to their live recorded interview on The Nervous Breakcast. A selection of the written interview follows below:
Rita: You quote several of Trump’s tweets, interviews, off-air conversations, and “witticisms” throughout the book. What was it like to allow Donald Trump’s ethos, his words, his violence, his misogyny, his racism, and his nonsense to inhabit your body and your psyche, as you’re writing this book? Do his words become part of how one could maybe reason or rationalize him?
David: I certainly worry about that… It’s a book I wrote a couple of years ago, and now it’s a year and a half later. I’d write the book differently now, though I’m proud of it, and I think it holds up well. Any other approach seemed, to me, dead on arrival. To me, standing on a high moral promontory and wagging a finger at the armies down below is not an approach that interests me. You’re just preaching to the proverbial choir. That doesn’t interest me;it has no animating energy for me as a writer and thinker. A politically left friend of mine was telling me about how he watched the news. He happens to be in a wheelchair, and he couldn’t get to the remote on his TV. When Hillary was talking, he knew what Hillary was going to say and so he didn’t bother to wheel over to the remote because her words were so predictable and so vetted that he didn’t really care what she was saying. Instead, he found himself wheeling over to hear what Trump had said. That is what I wanted to unpack. If I find myself weirdly riveted by Trump, then I can try to understand those 50,000,000 voters who actually voted for Trump. Regarding your question, maybe the book will get us into uncomfortable territory. Trump does have quite serious performative skills. He’s basically an old-fashioned Catskills insult comedian, and for a variety of reasons, it works or has worked so far. There’s this quote I love by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The way to write is to throw your body at the target when all your arrows are spent.” I tried to do that, to throw my body at the target, which is Trump. I was boring everybody with my “Oh my God, can you believe what’s happening?” But in this book I say, what’s scarily riveting about him? In this journal, I’m going to be real. For decades, Republican strategists have learned to go to the very essence of someone’s strength. You go after the unassailable, and the whole edifice falls down. Trump went after McCain, who was this canonized figure, and just said “I like heroes who aren’t captured.” That’s verbally brilliant. On every level, that’s politics, that’s warfare. There’s this line that I quote, too, from Seneca: “Life is warfare.” Trump gets that. Like I say in the book, quoting a friend, the Democrats are playing badminton and Trump is playing ice hockey. It ain’t working. So how about if in this book, I try and play some ice hockey?
Rita: Follow-up question–throughout the book we get a portrait of Trump’s interior psychology. What is his relationship to emotion, and do you see echoes of Trump’s relationship to his emotion within yourself, or within American culture at large?
David: I think that’s one of the huge hidden topics of the book. I do talk a lot about that: we’re numb, we’re broken, in a postmodern, hyper-mediated, and hyper-digitalized culture. In contemporary, culture, we’re walking dead people. It’s my own thesis, and again I can only speak from my experience. Maybe this is my condition, which I’m unfairly projecting onto the populace. But all these 19th century feelings that Hilary Clinton pretends that we still have, people just know that’s completely dead. In some ways, Trump is a very contemporary person, probably because he has Attention Deficit Disorder and might be on the spectrum.. I think he is in touch with his reptilian self, and he knows how to access it. Yes, he is a racist and has been from a very early age (stemming from his father’s real estate dealings), but what Trump does quite consciously is extend his personality to reach a larger base. Not long ago, he was a pro-business, pro-choice, pro-gay, centrist Republican. He’s taken his incipient racism and performs it extensively to see how far it can go. If it’s slightly too far, he just dials it back slightly. It has to do with art, with understanding that politics is performance art. It’s theater, it’s symbolic theater. When the Democrats are droning on about something, it’s not working. Part of my argument about art is that it does go forward. Art, like science, progresses; you can’t rewind the clock. Additionally, this kind of demagoguery seems to play better on the right. If someone like Elizabeth Warren started acting very demagogice, we would say, “Stop that.” “The left tends to valorize discourse and intellection, and demagoguery tends to be a strategy of the right. The left is now confused because how you can have riveting political theater when the whole rhetoric of the left is that they’re smarter than you, or they’re more thoughtful, more empathetic? I do think a real key to Trump’s success is that I think he’s a really quite serious nihilist. Through a lot of the lines in the book, he sounds like he’s straight out of “Notes from Underground,” Dostoevsky’s novella about the underground man. Trump has no belief in any transcendental signifier. He has no belief in love and religion, in art, in history, in the continuation of culture. He’s obsessed with the fact of death, he’s terrified of death, as most people are, but most people find some kind of solace or consolation. Trump is a seriously nowhere man. I would argue we all, as 21st century people, struggle with a kind of numbness. In Leaving the Atocha Station, Ben Lerner talks about being in a museum in Madrid and how the only thing that moves him about being in a museum is that he’s moved by his own incapacity to feel anything. I think that’s a real insight into contemporary culture. You may not agree; t might be the super male or white or privileged point of view, but that’s Trump’s point of view as well. I think his numbness is absolutely crucial. People will do anything to feel a little bit of rage about their numbness. Hillary is an easy battering ram or a punching bag because she’s such an obvious perfect foil for Trump. She’s earnest in the way that he’s cynical. You think of the great anti-heroes of literature, whether it’s Petronius’ Satyricon all the way up to Camus’s The Fall, and that character is our worst self realized. We see a reflection of our own numbness in Trump, and I think that connects to Trump’s rage. He’s expressing the rage that people feel, that life is absolutely meaningless in a post-God, post-literate culture. That is absolute political theater. That’s how I mean the Democrats are playing badminton: “Here’s our policy suggestion which might improve things ever so slightly.” Trump is not playing that game, he’s playing existential theater. And it has sort of worked so far. That’s really the core of the book, that we’re broken, we’re dead, we’re numb, we’re the walking dead. Watch me at least express an insane rage, which feels better than feeling numb.
Emotion & Suspense in Theatre, Poetry, and (Non)Fiction
Plato argues that human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge. And before staging Kalidasa’s The Recognition of Śākuntalā, the director challenges his actress-lover: “As though in a painting, the entire audience has had their emotion colored through your melody. So now—what shall we perform to sustain the mood?” In this class, we will explore how creating vivid emotional worlds between characters and within storylines can build suspense, sustain drama, and lure the reader deeper in. Whether you’re currently working on a short story, novel, screenplay, theatrical play, lyrical essay, memoir, or narrative poem this class will help you craft a unique emotional landscape
1. Class 1 – Saturday, July 25, 10 am – 12 pm EDT online Class seminar and writing session on rasa theory.
2. Class 2 – Saturday, August 1, 10 am – 12 pm EDT online Workshop and sharing of writing featuring students’ rasa theory exercises.
About Rita Banerjee:
Rita Banerjee is the Director of the MFA in Writing & Publishing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and Creative Executive Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. She’s the author of several books including CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing (C&R Press, 2018), the poetry collection Echo in Four Beats (FLP, 2018), which was nominated for the 2019 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize at the Academy of American Poets, the novella “A Night with Kali” in Approaching Footsteps (SPR, 2016), and the poetry chapbook Cracklers at Night (FLP, 2010). She is the co-writer of Burning Down the Louvre (2021), a documentary film about race, intimacy, and tribalism in the United States and in France. Her work also appears in PANK, Nat. Brut., Poets & Writers, Academy of American Poets, Vermont Public Radio, The Nervous Breakdown, Hunger Mountain, and elsewhere.
How to Register:
Students can sign-up individually for each class for $100 per class, or join the whole 2-part series for $200.
To register for class, please send in a short 1-5 page writing sample, 2 professional references, and a cover letter conveying your interest and a short bio of who you are as an author and where you are with you creative writing. This information will help our writing faculty get to know you as a writer and your writing goals.
Writers of all genres (poetry, fiction, nonfiction, screenwriting, and film) are welcome to participate in Rita Banerjee’s online courses.
To join our Virtual Summer Writing Retreat, you will need access to broadband internet and a working video-camera and microphone on your computer. All classes will be taught on either Google Hangouts or Zoom. Invitations to class URLS will be sent out to all registered users before our classes begin, and instructors may share reading materials for class with registered students via Dropbox or Google Drive.
The CWW’s Reading for Black Visions Collective is in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The readers featured this evening were part of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Granada Writing Retreat. Granada is known as a multicultural city, where Roma, Catholics, Jews, and Muslims have all been a part of creating a culture in conversation. It is also the city of Frederico García Lorca, who was a queer poet and part of the anti-facist movement in Spain. He was assassinated by fascist dictator Franco’s firing squads for his antifascist beliefs. As a literary organization, we, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, are a community of writers who stand unwaveringly against fascism globally and in support of ending systemic racism in the United States. #BlackLivesMatter
“Since 2017, Black Visions Collective, has been putting into practice the lessons learned from organizations before us in order to shape a political home for Black people across Minnesota. We aim to center our work in healing and transformative justice principles, intentionally develop our organizations core “DNA” to ensure sustainability, and develop Minnesota’s emerging Black leadership to lead powerful campaigns. By building movements from the ground up with an integrated model, we are creating the conditions for long term success and transformation.
Black Visions Collective envisions a world in which ALL Black Lives Matter. We use the guidance and brilliance of our ancestors as well as the teachings of our own experiences to pursue our commitment to dismantling systems of oppression and violence. We are determined in our pursuit of dignity and equity for all.”
Devynity Wray is a writer and visual artist from Queens, New York. Her work investigates the condition of Black people in America, her heritage and the legacy of her ancestors in contemporary form. Wray is a Hunter College graduate, a Nuyorican slam team poet and a Cambridge Writer’s Workshop alumna.
Rita Banerjee is the Director of the MFA in Writing & Publishing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and Creative Executive Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. She’s the author of several books including CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing (C&R Press, 2018), the poetry collection Echo in Four Beats (FLP, 2018), which was nominated for the 2019 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize at the Academy of American Poets, the novella “A Night with Kali” in Approaching Footsteps (SPR, 2016), and the poetry chapbook Cracklers at Night (FLP, 2010). She is the co-writer of Burning Down the Louvre (2021), a documentary film about race, intimacy, and tribalism in the United States and in France. Her work also appears in PANK, Nat. Brut., Poets & Writers, Academy of American Poets, Vermont Public Radio, and elsewhere.
Alex Marzano-Lesnevich is the author of THE FACT OF A BODY: A Murder and a Memoir, which received a Lambda Literary Award, the Chautauqua Prize, prizes in France and Canada, and was translated into nine languages. The recipient of fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, MacDowell, Yaddo, and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, as well as a Rona Jaffe Award, Marzano-Lesnevich has written for The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Oxford American, Harper’s, and many other publications. They live in Portland, Maine, and are an assistant professor at Bowdoin College. They are at work on a book about gender, from which an excerpt will appear in Best American Essays 2020.
Frederick-Douglass Knowles II is an Educator and Activist fervent in achieving community augmentation through literary arts. He is the inaugural Poet Laureate for the City of Hartford. His works have been selected as a finalist for the New England Association of Teachers of English (NEATE) Poet of the Year Award, as well as a nominee for a Pushcart Prize. He is a recipient of the Nutmeg Poetry Award, and the 2020 Connecticut of The Arts Fellow in Artist Excellence for Poetry/ Creative Non-Fiction. Frederick-Douglass is the author of BlackRoseCity, andan Associate Professor of English at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, CT.
Maggie Downs is an award-winning writer and essayist based in Palm Springs, California. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Palm Springs Life, and McSweeney’s, among publications, and has been anthologized in The Lonely Planet Travel Anthology: True Stories from the World’s Best Writers and Best Women’s Travel Writing. She is also the co-host of the radio show and podcast Open Book, with New York Times bestselling writer Tod Goldberg, and holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of California, Riverside-Palm Desert. Braver Than You Think: Around the World on the Trip of My (Mother’s) Lifetime, is her first book. Find out more at maggiedowns.com.
Tim Horvath is the author of Understories (Bellevue Literary Press), which won the New Hampshire Literary Award for Outstanding Work of Fiction, and Circulation (sunnyoutside). His fiction has appeared in Conjunctions, AGNI, Harvard Review, and many other journals, and his book reviews appear in Georgia Review, The Brooklyn Rail, and American Book Review. His novel-in-progress focuses on the lives of contemporary classical composers and musicians. He has taught Creative Writing in the Granada, Spain, program for the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, and in the BFA and MFA programs at New England College, including the Institute of Art and Design.
As part of ChagallPAC’s Fourth Fridays Literary Salon Series, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop presents a COVID-19 Benefit Reading on May 22nd at 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. EDT. We are excited to have this event featured and broadcast on Creative Northshore Facebook Live Channel.
The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop COVID-19 Benefit Reading will support the Boston Resiliency Fund, which raises money for providing food to Boston’s children, families and seniors, providing technology to Boston Public Schools for remote learning, and to provide support to first responders, front-line workers, and healthcare workers so they can effectively do their job and promote public health.
During our reading, we will be raising awareness for the cause and ask our audience members to make donations via the link that we have provided below. We are looking forward to supporting this cause and being able to give back to our community. We encourage our audience members to donate to the Boston Resiliency Fund with the link below. Please tune in to our Facebook Live event!
Rita Banerjeeis the Director of the MFA in Writing & Publishing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and Creative Executive Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. She’s the author of several books including CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing (C&R Press, 2018), the poetry collection Echo in Four Beats (FLP, 2018), which was nominated for the 2019 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize at the Academy of American Poets, the novella “A Night with Kali” in Approaching Footsteps (SPR, 2016), and the poetry chapbook Cracklers at Night (FLP, 2010). She is the co-writer of Burning Down the Louvre (2021), a documentary film about race, intimacy, and tribalism in the United States and in France. Her work also appears in PANK, Nat. Brut., Poets & Writers, Academy of American Poets, Vermont Public Radio, and elsewhere.
Madeleine Barnesis a poet, visual artist, and doctoral fellow at The Graduate Center, CUNY. Her debut poetry collection, You Do Not Have To Be Good, was Trio House Press’ open reading selection, and will be published in July 2020. She is the author of three chapbooks, most recently Women’s Work, forthcoming from Tolsun Books in 2021. She serves as Poetry Editor at Cordella Magazine, a publication that showcases the work of women and non-binary writers and artists. She’s the recipient of two Academy of American Poets poetry prizes, the Princeton Poetry Prize, the Gertrude Gordon Journalism Prize, and the Three Rivers Review Poetry Prize. She teaches at Brooklyn College. Visit her at madeleinebarnes.com
GM Palmer lives with his family on a poodle farm in North Florida. His poems, stories, and reviews have appeared in The Hopkins Review, Literary Matters, Tahoma Literary Review, and elsewhere. Links to his work can be found on Twitter @gm_palmer.
The event is free and open to the public and will be live-streamed online. Audience Members are asked to mute their microphones and turn off their video during the reading. They are welcome to switch audio and video back on when asking a question during the Q&A portion following the reading. The event will be broadcast via Google Hangouts, and you can join our readers at the following:
Trinie Dalton has authored, edited, and/or curated seven books. Wide Eyed (Akashic) was a selection of Dennis Cooper’s Little House on the Bowery series and a finalist for The Believer book award. Dear New Girl or Whatever Your Name Is (McSweeney’s), co-edited with Lisa Wagner and Eli Horowitz, is an art book for which she transformed her archive of confiscated high school notes into a collaboration between fifty artists. Mythtym (Picturebox) is an art/fiction anthology based on mythological monsters and horror. Sweet Tomb (Madras Press) is a fairy tale novella. Baby Geisha (Two Dollar Radio) and Destroy Bad Thoughts Not Yourself (The Pit) are her most recent collections. Dalton also writes about art, books, music, and frequently contributes to artists’ book projects. Her journalism is sampled on www.sweettomb.com. She has teaching experience in fiction, creative nonfiction, critical writing, art criticism, and artists’ book courses with an emphasis on independent publishing in schools including: School of Visual Arts, Columbia University, Bard College, University of Southern California, Art Center College of Design, NYU, and Pratt Institute. Primarily an author of fiction, Dalton’s interest in cross-disciplinary thinking also influences her teaching of storytelling craft.
Yi Shun Lai (say “yeeshun” for her first name; “lie” for her last) has been a writer and editor for 25 years. She is the fiction editor and co-publisher of the Tahoma Literary Review, having previously served as its nonfiction editor. Her column on the craft of writing and the art of publishing appears every month in The Writer magazine. Her debut novel, Not a Self-Help Book: the Misadventures of Marty Wu, was a semi-finalist for the Thurber Prize in American Humor. Her memoir, PIN UPS, will be published in August 2020 by Homebound Publications’ Little Bound Books imprint. She teaches in the online MFA programs at Southern New Hampshire University and Bay Path Universities, and edits books for Book Launchers.
Carvell Wallace is a New York Times-bestselling author, memoirist, and award-winning podcaster who covers race, arts, culture, film, and music for a wide variety of news outlets. He is a regular long-form contributor to the New York Times Magazine, where his profile of Riz Ahmed was a cover story in August 2018. He has additionally written cover profiles on Mahershala Ali for GQ and Samuel L. Jackson for Esquire. In 2019 Wallace published The Sixth Man, co-written with Golden State Warrior’s forward Andre Iguodala. The memoir of Iguodala’s life in basketball — released on Dutton press — spent four weeks on the Times bestseller list for Hardcover Nonfiction, 14 weeks on the Sports Nonfiction list, and made Barack Obama’s year-end list of favorite books. He is currently co-writing a book with the rapper Meek Mill on the topic of criminal justice, and his own memoir on childhood trauma and recovery, Profiles in Hurt, is due out in 2021 on the FSG imprint. In addition to his work on culture and entertainment, he has composed several notable long-form reported memoirs, including a 2016 effort for the now defunct The Toast in which he explored the origins of the Green Book as a meditation on migration, race, and homelessness among the black population. He is a graduate of the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and holds a BFA in Theatre from the Tisch School at New York University. He lives in Oakland, California, and is the father to two teenagers.