Visiting Writers Series

Pacific University regularly invites authors to read and talk about craft with students and the community at large through the Visiting Writers Series events.

From across a wide range of genres and backgrounds, the series has featured emerging artists and well as nationally-recognized writers such as Jericho Brown, Chitra Divakaruni, Kwame Dawes, and Cheryl Strayed.

The VWS is sponsored by the Department of English, English Club & Honor Society, and the College of Arts & Sciences. Pacific's professional literary magazine, Silk Road Review: A Literary Crossroads, features interviews with VWS writers, so do check out the latest issue. You can also connect with the VWS on Facebook and Instagram

All readings and events are free and open to the public.


2018–19 Season

Forest Avenue Press | Nov 6, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7 p.m.

Forest Avenue Press, founded in 2012 in Portland, Oregon, publishes literary fiction infused with a fresh, complex, sometimes nutty but often wondrous approach to storytelling.

  • Kate Gray. A novelist, essayist, and poet, Gray is the author of Carry the Sky (2014) and Another Sunset We Survive (2007), which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Her chapbooks, Bone-Knowing (2006) and Where She Goes (2000), went on to win the Gertrude Press Blue Light prizes. Gray has also been awarded residencies at Hedgebrook, Norcroft, and Soapstone, and a fellowship from the Literary Arts.
  • Julia Stoops. An alum of Portland's Pinewood Table writing critique group, Stoops is a recipient of Oregon Arts Commission Fellowships for visual arts and literature, and was a resident at the Ucross Foundation. She holds dual degrees in Visual Art and Philosophy, and received an MFA in Painting from Portland State University.
  • Jackie Shannon Hollis. Raised on the Oregon ranch that her great-grandfather homesteaded, Hollis's work has appeared in a variety of literary magazines including The Sun, Slice Magazine, Rosebud, South Dakota Review, and High Desert Journal.
  • Laura Stanfill. A novelist, an award-winning journalist, and the publisher of Forest Avenue Press, Publishers Weekly designated Stanfill as a 2017 Star Watch honoree, and she founded the Main Street Writers Movement. She serves on the PubWest Board of Directors, the Atelier26 Books advisory board, and is an active member of the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses, the Independent Book Publishers Association, Cascadia Publishers, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, and Women in Portland Publishing.

Aja Gabel | Nov 29, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Aja Gabel's debut novel, The Ensemble (2018), about the loves and lives contained in a string quartet, is out now from Riverhead Books. Gabel's prose can be found in New England Review, New Ohio Review, Glimmer Train, BOMB, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. She has been the recipient of awards from Atlantic Monthly and Inprint, as well as fellowships from the Sewanee Writers' Conference and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, where she was a fellow in fiction 2012–13. Having taught fiction, non-fiction, and literature, Gabel earned her BA at Wesleyan University, her MFA at the University of Virginia and has a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston.She currently lives in Los Angeles with her dog, Bear.

Emily Pérez | Feb 21, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Emily Pérez is the author of the poetry collection House of Sugar, House of Stone (2016), and the chapbooks Backyard Migration Route (2016) and Made and Unmade (2018). A granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, she grew up in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. A Canto Mundo Fellow, Pérez has received funding and recognition from the Artist Trust, Jack Straw Writers, Bread Loaf Writers’ Workshop, Summer Literary Seminars, Inprint, and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming from POETRYCopper Nickel, Fairy Tale ReviewGlass Poetry, and Queen Mob’s Teahouse. Having graduated with honors from Stanford University and earned an MFA at the University of Houston, Pérez served as a poetry editor for Gulf Coast and taught with Writers in the Schools. She teaches English and Gender Studies in Denver where she lives with her husband and sons.

Airlie Press | Mar 14, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

A tribe of poets who ferret out new voices to add to the choir of sustaining voices we long to hear, Airlie Press produces full-length volumes of poetry. All funds earned through book sales, subscription orders, and contributions are returned to Airlie Press for the creation of new books of poetry.

  • Kelly Terwilliger. The author of a chapbook of poems, A Glimpse of Oranges (2008), she works as an oral storyteller and artist-in-residence in Oregon public schools.
  • Amelia Díaz Ettinger. Born in México and raised in Puerto Rico, Ettinger writes poems that reflect the struggle with identity often found in immigrants.
  • Jennifer Perrine. The author of three books of poetry, No Confession, No Mass (2015), In the Human Zoo (2011), and The Body Is No Machine (2007), Perrine's poems have been described as “muscular,” “hard-working,” “disciplined,” “grimly witty,” “scientific,” “ecstatic,” and “full of surprises.” Her next book, Again, is forthcoming from Airlie Press in 2020.
  • Tim Whitsel. Living on a one-hundred-year floodplain outside Springfield, Oregon, Whitsel is the author of the full-length poetry collection is We Say Ourselves (2012), which is infused with hs passion for western rivers, gardening, jazz, bicycling, and words. Having won first prize at the 2013 Northwest Poets’ Concord, in 2014 and 2017 he was honored with an artist residency at PLAYA.

Reyna Grande | Apr 18, Jefferson Hall 221, 6 p.m.

Grande is the author of the bestselling memoir, The Distance Between Us, (Atria 2012) about her life before and after illegally immigrating from Mexico to the United States. The much-anticipated sequel, A Dream Called Home, was published this past October. Adopted as the common read selection by schools, colleges, and cities across the country, her books have received an American Book Award, the El Premio Aztlán Literary Award, and numerous other distinctions. This event is hosted in partnership with the Center of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as well as PCC Rock Creek Women's Resource Center. 


2017–18 Season

Pacific Faculty Reading | Sept 29, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Pacific’s Writers Series kicked off with readings by Professors Darlene Pagán and Kathlene Postma.

Pacific Faculty Reading | Oct 3, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Pacific’s Writers Series continued with readings by Associate Professors Keya Mitra and Brent Johnson.

Walidah Imarisha | Nov 16, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

A historian at heart, reporter by (w)right, rebel by reason, Imarisha is an educator, writer, public scholar and spoken word artist. Her nonfiction book Angels with Dirty Faces: Three Stories of Crime, Prison, and Redemption won a 2017 Oregon Book Award. She is also the author of the poetry collection Scars/Stars. She is currently working on an Oregon Black history book, forthcoming from AK Press. Imarisha has taught in Stanford University’s Program of Writing and Rhetoric, Portland State University’s Black Studies Department, Oregon State University’s Women Gender Sexuality Studies Department, and Southern New Hampshire University’s English Department. For six years, she presented statewide as a public scholar with Oregon Humanities’ Conversation Project on topics such as Oregon Black history, alternatives to incarceration, and the history of hip hop, and has toured the country several times performing, lecturing and challenging.

Chitra Divakaruni | Mar 15, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Indian-American writer Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning author, poet, activist and teacher. Her books have been translated into 29 languages, and her work has appeared in over a hundred magazines and anthologies. Several of her novels and stories have been made into films and plays. She has won an American Book Award, a Light of India award, a Premio Scanno (Italy), and a Barbara Deming award, among others. Divakaruni teaches Creative Writing at the University of Houston and writes for both adults and children. In 2015, she was chosen by the Economic Times for their list Twenty Most Influential Global Indian Women. Her latest novel, Before We Visit the Goddess, about the deep and complicated bond between mothers and daughters, came out in April 2016 from Simon and Schuster and became an international bestseller.

A Very* Serious Reading | Apr 5, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Pacific’s Writers Series concluded with reading of excerpts from creative writing senior thesis projects, honor society induction, and open-mic.


2016–17 Season

Sharma Shields | Oct 6, Milky Way, 7:30 p.m.

Shields is the author of a short story collection, Favorite Monster (2012), and a novel, The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac (2015), winner of the 2016 Washington State Book Award. Her next novel, The Cassandra, is forthcoming from Henry Holt. Sharma’s writing has appeared in Electric Lit, SliceThe New York Times, Kenyon Review, Iowa Review, Fugue, and elsewhere and has garnered such awards as the Autumn House Fiction Prize, the Tim McGinnis Award for Humor, a Grant for Artist Projects from Artist Trust, and the A.B. Guthrie Award for Outstanding Prose. She received her B.A. in English Literature from the University of Washington (2000) and her MFA from the University of Montana (2004).

Sunil Yapa | Nov 3, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

A finalist for the 2017 PEN/Faulkner award, Sunil Yapa’s debut novel Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick, and an Indies Next Pick, and was named one of the best books of 2016 by AmazonTime MagazineThe Washington PostBustle, and others. Yapa’s fiction and non-fiction have appeared in American Short Fiction, Guernica, O Magazine, Poets & Writers, The Margins, Hyphen, Slice, LitHub and others.  He currently divides his time between New York City and Montreal, and teaches in the low-residency MFA Program at Sierra Nevada College in Lake Tahoe.

Mary Szybist | Mar 9, Jefferson Hall 224, 7:30 p.m.

Szybist is most recently the author of Incarnadine, winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rona Jaffe Foundation, and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress.  Her work has been awarded two Pushcart Prizes and has been supported by residencies at the MacDowell Colony and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Bellagio, Italy. Her first book Granted won the 2004 GLCA New Writers Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Szybist grew up in Williamsport, Pennsylvania and attended the University of Virginia and the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. She has called Portland home since 2004.

Shann Ray Ferch | Apr 13, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Shann Ray grew up in Montana and spent part of his childhood on the Northern Cheyenne reservation. His work has been featured in PoetryNarrative, Esquire, McSweeney’s, Poetry International, Northwest Review and Salon. Named a finalist with Ted Kooser’s Splitting an Order and Erin Belieu’s Slant Six, Ray’s debut book of poems, Balefire, won the High Plains Book Award in poetry. A National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow, he is the winner of the American Book Award, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Bakeless Prize, the High Plains Book Award in both poetry and fiction, the Western Writers of America Spur Award, the Foreword Book of the Year Readers’ Choice Award, the Subterrain Poetry Prize, the Ruminate Short Story Prize, the Crab Creek Review Fiction Award, the Pacific Northwest Inlander Short Story Prize, and the Poetry Quarterly Poetry Prize. Ray is the author of Balefire: Poems (Lost Horse), American Masculine: Stories (Graywolf), American Copper: A Novel (Unbridled), and a book of political theory, Forgiveness and Power in the Age of Atrocity (Rowman & Littlefield). He was a member of a group educational Fulbright Grant to South Africa, and a United Nations Sustainable Development Grant titled Intercultural Dialogues through Beauty as a Language of Peace. Shann has also served as a research psychologist for the Centers for Disease Control, a panelist for the National Endowment for the Humanities, and as a visiting scholar in Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America.


2015–16 Season

Kim Van Alkemade | Sept 24, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Alkemade is the author of the historical novel Orphan #8. Her creative nonfiction essays have appeared in literary journals including Alaska Quarterly Review, CutBank, and So To Speak. Spending eight years writing Orphan #8, Her research grew from an interest in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum of New York, where her grandfather and uncles grew up. The inspiration for her novel specifically came from a motion she found made by orphanage directors in 1920 for the purchase of wigs for children who had been used for radiation experiments. She holds a BA in English and History and an MA and PhD in English. Alkemade lives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and is a writing professor at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.

Jericho Brown | Oct 29, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Jericho Brown is the author of two books of poetry. His most recent collection, The New Testament, was described by Yusef Komunyakaa as a chronicle of “life and death, personal rituals and blasphemies, race and nation, the good and the bad.” His first collection of poetry, Please, won the 2009 American Book Award. The collection has received tremendous praise since its release; Ilya Kaminsky notes: “His lyrics are memorable, muscular, majestic. Brown’s poems are living on the page.” Brown is the recipient of a Whiting Writer’s Award among others. He grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, and worked as a speechwriter for the mayor of New Orleans. He is currently an assistant professor of English and creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Karen McPherson | Nov 12, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Karen McPherson is a poet, literary translator, editor in the Airlie Press collective, and Professor of French and francophone literature at the University of Oregon. She has three books published and two collections of poetry: a poetry chapbook called Sketching Elise, and a full-length poetry volume, Skein of Light. McPherson’s poems and translations have appeared in journals and anthologies including Calyx, Fireweed, Cider Press Review, Potomac Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, the Lane Literary Guild anthology Dona Nobis Pacem, the anthology Bigger Than They Appear, and more.

Tiphanie Yanique | Feb 25, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Tiphanie Yanique is the author of the short story collection, How to Escape from a Leper Colony, the picture book I Am the Virgin Islands, and the novel Land of Love and Drowning. She has also had publications in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and others. BookPage listed her as one of the 14 Women to Watch Out For in 2014. Her writing has won the 2011 BOCAS Prize for Caribbean Fiction, Boston Review Prize in Fiction, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, a Pushcart Prize, and an Academy of American Poet’s Prize. Yanique grew up in the Hospital Ground/Round da Field neighborhood of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. She graduated from All Saints Cathedral School and the Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra program. She is now an assistant professor in the MFA and Riggio Honors programs at the New School in New York City.

Brenda Miller | Mar 10, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Brenda Miller is the author of Listening Against the Stone: Selected Essays, Blessing of the Animals, and Season of the Body. She co-authored, with poet Holly J. Hughes, The Pen and the Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World and is also the co-author of Tell it Slant: Creating, Refining, and Publishing Creative Nonfiction. Her work has received six Pushcart Prizes, and all six prize-winning essays are included in Listening Against the Stone. Her essays have been published in many journals, including Fourth Genre, Creative Nonfiction, The Sun, Utne Reader, The Georgia Review, and The Missouri Review. Miller directs the MFA program in Creative Writing and the MA program in English Studies at Western Washington University and serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the Bellingham Review. She lives in Bellingham, WA, with her dog Abbe.


2014–15 Season

Nicole Georges | Sept 18, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Nicole J. Georges’ Lambda Award winning graphic memoir Calling Dr. Laura has been described as “engrossing, lovable, smart and ultimately poignant” by Rachel Maddow and “disarming and haunting, hip and sweet, all at once” by Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home. Georges has been publishing her own zines and comics for almost twenty years and has toured the country extensively. Her diary comic zine Invincible Summer has been collected into two anthology books. A writer and illustrator from Portland, Oregon, Georges currently teaches at California College for the Art’s MFA in Comics Program.

Stephanie Lenox | Oct 16, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Stephanie Lenox’s chapbook, The Heart That Lies Outside the Body, won the 2007 Slapering Hol Chapbook Contest. Her book of poetry, Congress of Strange People, was published by Airlie Press. Poet Henry Hughes calls it, “A smart, surprising, and audacious book.” Ashrita Furman, holder of the most Guinness World Records, says, “Reading her work is like watching a brilliant trapeze artist.” Lenox has received fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Oregon Arts Commission.

Robert Boswell | Nov 13, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Robert Boswell has published seven novels, three story collections, and two books of nonfiction. His work has earned him two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Boswell’s most recent novel, entitled Tumbledown, has been called, “A moving and often darkly hilarious meditation on sanity” by the Houston Chronicle. Author Richard Russo says, “Boswell’s real talent is for telling us the truth.” Boswell holds the Cullen Endowed Chair in Creative Writing at the University of Houston.

Lisa Genova | Mar 5, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Lisa Genova’s novel Still Alice depicts in fearless detail the life of a female professor after a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The novel has spent over forty weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and is now a major motion picture starring Julianne Moore. Moore has won a Golden Globe and been nominated for an Oscar for her role in this film. Genova’s other bestselling novels include Left Neglected and Love Anthony. Both present characters coping with illnesses affecting the brain, as does her forthcoming novel Inside the O'Brien’s. A Harvard-educated neuroscientist with an undergraduate degree in bio-psychology from Bates College, Genova travels worldwide speaking on Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, autism, and Huntington’s disease. She has appeared on the Dr. Oz Show, CNN, and The Today Show.


2013–14 Season

Lidia Yuknavitch | Sept 26, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Yuknavitch is the author of the memoir The Chronology of Water, winner of the Oregon Book Award Reader’s Choice and PNBA Award. She had published a novel, Dora: A Headcase, and three books of short fiction, including Her Other Mouths and Real to Reel. Other work has appeared in various publications including The Iowa ReviewMs.Fiction InternationalExquisite Corps, and Zyzzyva. Yuknavitch’s writing has been described by critics as “beautiful, poetic and painful.”

Lorraine Healy | Oct 24, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Healy is an Argentinean poet whose chapbook, The Farthest South, won the New American Press Award. She has published an acclaimed book of poetry, The Habit of Buenos Aires, and a second chapbook. The winner of several national awards, including the Hackney Prize, she has published extensively both in the U.S. and her native Argentina. Healy’s poems have been described by critics as “elegant and well-crafted.”

Tatjana Soli | Feb 20, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Soli’s novel The Lotus Eaters, a New York Times Bestseller, is set during the Viet Nam war. Her novel The Forgetting Tree was a New York Times Notable Book. She has received numerous awards, including the UK’s James Tait Black Prize. Her stories have appeared in Zyzzyva, Boulevard, and The Sun. Her work has been twice listed in the 100 Distinguished Stories in Best American Short Stories. Critics have described her novels as “daring” and “haunting.”

Amber Dermont | Mar 13, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Dermont is the author of Damage Control, a collection of short fiction, and The Starboard Sea. Her short stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies, including Dave Eggers’s Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005, Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope: All-Story, and Jane Smiley’s Best New American Voices 2006. Critics have said “Dermont delivers strong prose and intriguing characters who frequently defy stereotypical ideals.”


2012–13 Season

Stephen Kuusisto | Oct 11, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Kuusisto is both a memoirist and poet. His works include Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening, Planet of the Blind, and Only Bread, Only Light. Blind since birth, Kuusisto speaks largely on diversity, education, public policy, and disability. He has been featured in such publications as Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, Poetry, Partisan Review, The Washington Post Magazine, and others.

Pacific Faculty Reading | Nov 15, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Pacific’s Writers Series continues with readings by Professors Darlene Pagán, Kathlene Postma, and Brent Johnson.

Karen An-Hwei Lee | Feb 21, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Lee is the author of Phyla of Joy, Ardor and In Medias Res, winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award.  The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, she lives and teaches in southern California, where she is a novice harpist. She earned an M.F.A. from Brown University and  Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley.

Local Emerging Novelists | Mar 7, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

  • Naseem Rakha. Rakha is an award-winning author and journalist whose stories have been heard on NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Marketplace Radio, Christian Science Monitor, and Living on Earth. Her first novel, The Crying Tree, tells the story of loss and forgiveness when a family loses a son. She lives in Oregon with her husband, son, and many animals.
  • Lois Leveen. Leveen dwells in the spaces where literature and history meet. Lois has taught at UCLA and at Reed College, and is a regular contributor to Disunion, The New York Times, and her poetry and essays have appeared in numerous books, literary journals, and on NPR. Lois’ latest novel, The Secrets of Mary Bowser, has received positive reviews from Publishers’ Weekly, Kirkus Review, and The Oregonian.
  • Alexis Margaret Smith. Smith, author of the novel Glaciers, grew up in Soldotna, Alaska, and Seattle, Washington. She attended Mount Holyoke College, Portland State University, and Goddard College, where she earned an MFA in Creative Writing. Her writing has appeared in Tarpaulin Sky and on Powells.com.

Abi Curtis | Apr 2, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Curtis is the author of the poetry books Unexpected Weather and The Glass Delusion. Her beautifully crafted and highly accessible writing has been described by critics as “wondrous and unexpectedly funny.” Her work has been published in various journals and anthologies, including The London Review of BooksMagmaAmbitLong Poem MagazinePoetry South and Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam. Curtis is a professor at York St. John University in England and directs their master’s programs in creative writing and literature studies.


2011–12 Season

Tess Gallagher | Oct 24, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Poet Tess Gallagher is the featured author for the month of October in Pacific University’s Visiting Writers Series. Gallagher is the author of eight volumes of poetry, including her latest, Midnight Lantern: New and Selected Poems, published by Graywolf Press. She is the recipient of two National Endowment of the Arts awards and the Maxine Cushing Gray Foundation award, as well as a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation.

Ellen Margolis | Dec 6, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Margolis has seen her work produced at theatres throughout the United States, having been recognized by the New York International Fringe Festival, the National 10-Minute Play Competition, and the Trustus Playwrights’ Festival. Among them, How to Draw Mystical Creatures was recognized for Outstanding Achievement in Playwriting by the New York International Fringe Festival, and A Little Chatter, commissioned by Mile Square Theatre, was a finalist in the 2008 National 10-Minute Play Competition. In addition to chairing the Theatre Department at Pacific, she is a member of Playwrights West, Portland’s new-work theatre, and of The Forgery, an actors’ collective.

Liliana Ursu | Feb 28, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:00 p.m.

Romanian poet Ursu has written more than twenty books of poetry, prose, and translations. Her first book was published in 1977 while she worked at Romanian National Radio, where she faced lists of prohibited words and Communist censorship. After the fall of the regime in 1989, she was able to attend literary conferences in Europe, including one in Spain, where she met Tess Gallagher. Through her, Ursu came to be known in the United States. Her current poetry interprets the new freedoms of travel that Romanians have enjoyed in recent decades, an experience radically different than their oppression under Ceausescu. Ursu has had two Fulbrights, taught at three U.S. universities, and has been widely published in journals such as Massachusetts Review, American Poetry Review, and The New Yorker. This special event was also sponsored by the Elise Elliott Foundation, the Tom McCall Center, and the Center for Gender Equity.  

Patricia Smith | Mar 8, La Hacienda, 7:30 p.m.

Smith is the author of five books of poetry, including her latest, Blood Diamond. Chronicling the devastation and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Blood Diamond was named one of NPR’s top books of 2008. Her poems have appeared in anthologies such as Poetry, The Paris Review, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, the Chautauqua Literary Journal, TriQuarterly, and many more. A gifted performer, Smith also holds the title of the most successful competitor in the history of Poetry Slam as a four-time national individual champion.

Debra Gwartney | Apr 19, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Gwartney is the author of of the memoir Live Through This, a harrowing story of Gwartney’s search for her two daughters who ran away from home when they were in their teens.  Live Through This was a 2009 finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the National Books for a Better Life Award and the Oregon Book Award. With her husband Barry Lopez, Gwartney is the co-editor of  Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape. Her essays have been featured in publications including American Scholar, Prairie Schooner, Salon, Crab Orchard Review, and The New York Times.

Cheryl Strayed | May 3, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Strayed's memoir Wild, just released to critical acclaim, gives a vivid account of Strayed’s eleven-hundred-mile solo hike of the Pacific Crest trail when she was 26 after the death of her mother.  Her bitingly honest and compassionate nonfiction and fiction have won her recognition from sources as disparate as Poets & Writers and Vogue magazine. She is a Pushcart Prize recipient, the popular columnist “Sugar” on the TheRumpus.net, and a founder of the organization VIDA, Women in Literary Arts. Her essays and stories can be found in a wide array of journals and anthologies including The Best American Essays, Best New American Voices, and other publications.


2010–11 Season

Sarahlee Lawrence | Feb 10, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

As a girl growing up in remote central Oregon, Lawrence dreamed of leaving her small town in search of adventure. By the age of twenty-one, she had rafted some of the most dangerous rivers of the world as an accomplished river guide. But living her dream as guide and advocate, riding and cleaning the arteries of the world, led her back to the place she least expected to find herself–her dusty  beginnings and her family’s ranch. River House, published by Tin House Books, is the beautiful chronicle of a daughter’s return, her relationship with her father, who helps her build a log house by hand when she is 23, and her attempt to live a more sustainable life.  Lawrence now has an organic farm next to her house.

Marsha Hamilton | Mar 3, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Hamilton is the author of four acclaimed novels, most recently 31 Hours (2009), a Washington Post selection for one of the best novels of the year and an Indie Choice pick by independent booksellers. Hamilton is also the founder of two world literacy programs: the Camel Book Drive, begun in 2007 to supply a camel-borne library in northeastern Kenya, and the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, begun in 2009 to foster creative and intellectual exchange between Afghan women writers and American women authors and teachers. She worked as a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press for five years in the Middle East, where she covered the intefadeh, the peace process and the partial Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.

Kwame Dawes | Apr 15, Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216), 7:30 p.m.

Dawes is the author of thirteen books of poetry and many books of fiction, non-fiction and drama. In 2009, Dawes won an Emmy Award for his multimedia website, which uses poetry and photographs to vividly portray the HIV/AIDS crisis in Jamaica. Dawes is a Distinguished Poet in Residence at South Carolina University and  programming director of the Calabash International Literary Festival, which takes place in Jamaica. He is an expert on the music of Bob Marley, on which he has published extensively. He’s a practicing playwright and has seen more than 15 of his plays performed. An electrifying reader and musician, Dawes has been rightly called the busiest man in literature today. Visit the page here to see “Live Hope Love: Living and Loving with Aids in Jamaica,” Dawes’ Emmy Award-winning combination of poetry and photography.

For the previous VWS website, visit the page here.

Contact Us

Keya Mitra, PhD | Director, Undergraduate Creative Writing Program
Abigail Scott Duniway House 102 | 503-352-2989 | keyamitra@pacificu.edu