PREVIEW: Zell Visiting Writers Series: Sigrid Nunez & Aracelis Girmay

For the second installment of the Helen Zell Visiting Writers Series, we will be joined by Sigrid Nunez and Aracelis Girmay. Nunez is a novelist who has published seven books, the most recent of which is The Friend. She is interested in writing about language, memory, and writing itself in her work. Girmay is a poet whose work, according to the Poetry Foundation, “trace[s] the connections of transformation and loss across cities and bodies.” These poets have powerful messages about the subtleties of human nature. Join Michigan’s literary scene on Thursday, September 27 5:30-6:30 p.m at the UMMA’s Helmut Stern Auditorium.

PREVIEW: Zell Visiting Writers Series: Esmé Wang & Danielle Lazarin

Esme Wang and Danielle Lazarin

Kicking off the first installment of the Zell Visiting Writer’s Series for fall 2018 is  novelist and essayist Esme Wang and short-story writer Danielle Lazarin. The Zell Visiting Writers Series invites one or two distinguished writers for a reading of their literary work. These authors have critically acclaimed reception for their fiction, and engaging in their work and this event is a great way to be involved in the literary scene on campus and beyond.

Born in the Midwest to Taiwanese parents, Esme Wang is the author of the Border of Paradise, which is her debut novel. It is set in a post-war America and centers around the secrets and the haunting mental illness of family members affecting generations to come. A graduate of the University of Michigan’s MFA program, Danielle Lazarin has recently published her debut collection of short stories which has been called a brilliant look into the inner lives of middle-class women. Both these writers have much to say about womanhood, complex mental lives, and the truth of being human. Attend the reading Thursday September 20th, 2018 from 5:30-6:30 at UMMA’s Helmut Stern auditorium.

PREVIEW: Nell David & Franny Choi

As part of the Mark Webster Reading Series (affiliated with the Helen Zell MFA Writing program of UM and its second-year students), fiction writer Nell David and poet Franny Choi will be sharing a stage and reading their own selected works. David is a writer from Washington, DC. Choi is a published poet and editor of Hyphen, a literary magazine. This event is free and open to the public.

The series is praised for being a warm and relaxed setting full of literary energy. As a creative writing student and poet myself, I’m really excited to attend!

Date: March 16th, 2018
Time: 7-8pm
Location: UMMA Helmut Stern Auditorium

REVIEW: C. Dale Young Reading & Booksigning

I readily admit that I tend to avoid both poets and poetry. Whether it’s the dense arrangement of words or the way I stereotype poets as aloof and didactic, I don’t give them as much thought.

C. Dale Young, MD, MFA, proves why I’m wrong. I was drawn immediately to him because he has an MFA, but he also went on to medical school, and is now a practicing physician in Redwood, California. So while he was certainly poetic, he was also warm, polite and engaging.

Dr. Young’s poetry is a blend of soul and landscape, in addition to the body. His poems wove through the fabric of his life, mixing in a bit of science here, a dash of hapless romance there, and a zesty topping of fantasy.

As most poets do, Dr. Young’s poetry contains gems such as:

“Things always beg for significance, would that we had time to come back to them”


“No one talks about joy anymore; it is more taboo than love”

He saved the two best ones, however, for the very end. “The Bridge” is available online, and is a whimsical piece about love. On the exact other end of the spectrum was “Torn,” a moving piece about him suturing a victim of homophobic assault and his fear of suffering the same fate.

There is also a recording of “One More Thing” here.

For the audience’s sake, Dr. Young kept his poems short, and his commentary in between readings was also curt, but often humorous. This is a poet to explore, if you ever have the chance.




PREVIEW: C. Dale Young Reading & Booksigning

This week’s guest of the Zell Visiting Writers Series is C. Dale Young. Mr. Young is not only the author of numerous books and the recipient of numerous literary prizes and fellowships, but also a fully licensed physician.

I invite you to his web site to view a sample of his poetry, or here to read a sample of his prose.

Much of his work revolves around love and nature, and each poem of his that I have read is simple, yet pleasant and enriching.

Thursday, October 13th

5:30 PM in Helmut Stern Auditorium (basement of UMMA)


REVIEW: Helen Zell Visiting Writers Series with Anne Carson

When I walked into the UMMA on Thursday night, I was instantly reminded of last March, when Kazuo Ishiguro held a reading of his then-recent novel The Buried Giant. Then, I felt as if I was plunged into an environment that was larger-than-life, sitting under the high ceiling of the main foyer. But when I went down to the basement and entered the auditorium where Anne Carson would be reading, I felt the exact opposite; chatter abounded throughout the room, but the lights were muted, closing the room and making it feel small and warm.

If I was to characterize the reading as a whole, then, that’s what I’d say: small, warm, intimate, and most importantly, enchanting. From the introduction praising her amazing body of work to her actual reading, I was completely entranced. She wasn’t an intimidating figure, but quite the opposite. She even joked, in a very dry, but still somewhat kind tone, “I’ll try to be stream-worthy.” I felt nothing but warmth and welcome emulating from her as she introduced her work, titled “An Essay on Threat,” and began to read.

As for the work itself, I must steal from the eloquent introduction Jenny Boychuk. She described Carson as “unclassifiable” and quoted a national critic who deemed her a “philosopher of heartbreak.” Those two thoughts encapsulate her writing perfectly. If you asked me to describe “An Essay on Threat,” which came in three parts, one long, one very long, and one very short, I honestly wouldn’t have an answer. I don’t even know if there was solid plot that I could identify. Instead, I was mesmerized in listening to the writing, delighting in how poetic her prose sounded. Rather than narrating with a direct plot she fills your imagination for you, each salient detail immersing you into the world she created.

I know I don’t speak only for myself when I say I left the reading changed, challenged, and moved. Changed, because after hearing her read, I will never read her work the same way ever again. Challenged, because when she asked all the writers to raise their hands, I wanted to someday be the one asking that question from the stage, which means learning from great writers like her and developing my own craft. And, finally, moved.

“My heart is swimmed in time.” – Anne Carson


The next author in the Visiting Writer’s Series, NoViolet Bulawayo, will be at the UMMA Helmut Stern Auditorium on Thursday, February 11, at 5:30 pm.