Literature | St. Louis Public Radio

Literature

File photo: St. Louis Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed said it would be unfair to appoint a poet laureate until the controversy is settle.d
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The delay in naming a new St. Louis poet laureate may soon be over.

in December, a poet laureate task force recommended local poet and educator Jane Ellen Ibur. The next step was up the Board of Aldermen, which oversees the position. But a dispute about whether the task force followed regulations has delayed the board’s vote for five months.

Board President Lewis Reed now says he believes Ibur will be offered the position. But first, he wants a board committee to look into the way task force chair Aaron Williams handled its affairs.

In this file photo: Antionette Carroll's Creative Reaction Labs works with students and oth
Provided | Creative Reaction Lab

St. Louis’ Arts and Education Council has announced the first recipients of a new startup competition for arts entrepreneurs. The winners are Antionette Carroll and Amanda Wells.

Carroll founded a group called Creative Reaction Lab, which uses design to meet the challenges of underrepresented communities. One project brought in professionals to teach students about creative problem-solving.

Wells organized the writers’ collaborative Flow that enables writers to work together and artists to work with writers.

 In this file photo, St. Louis Poet Laureate Michael Castro talks with students at an event presented by the 7th Grade Poetry Foundation.
Photo provided by Adelia Castro

Some in the St. Louis poetry community are upset about a delay in announcing a new poet laureate.

In December 2014, Michael Castro was ushered in with great fanfare as St. Louis’ first official poet. It was a two-year term.

This past December, the head of the task force charged with naming Castro’s successor told poet Jane Ellen Ibur that she’d been selected. But she still doesn't have the job.

Patricia McKissack
Photo provided | The St. Louis American

With the death of Patricia McKissack on Friday, the world lost the surviving partner of one of the most prolific duos in literature.

McKissack suffered a heart attack and was taken to an area hospital, where she was pronounced dead. She was 72.

Patricia McKissack and her husband, Fredrick McKissack embarked on their collaborative literary lives nearly 35 years ago, with the intention of being the change they wanted to see. The couple decided that little black boys and girls deserved positive images of themselves and a broad scope of their people’s rich history as they turned the pages of books.

A file photo of Augusten Burroughs accompanies this image of the cover of his new book, "Lust and Wonder."
Christopher Schelling

From the beginning of his writing career, Augusten Burroughs was determined to be honest, even if writing about his often messy life would be a daunting process.

In his memoir “Running with Scissors,” and his later works, Burroughs has engaged in self-reflection, an approach that has won him a loyal following and inspired a hit movie. He continues that process in his latest book, “Lust and Wonder.”

“That’s really the key: to understand what happened to you, what your role in it was,” said Burroughs, who speaks tonight at the Schlafly Branch of the St. Louis Public Library. “Just becoming more and more and more truthful with yourself.”

This collage of file photos shows the "Words for Love" book cover and author Emily Robbins.
Collage images provided by Riverhead Books

Author Emily Robbins was a Washington University grad student in August 2013 when she saw St. Louisans protesting in University City against U.S. plans to attack Syria. She was profoundly moved by the local activists and incorporated those feelings into the book she was writing, called “A Word for Love.”

On Wednesday night, Robbins will appear at Left Banks Books to sign copies, and speak about the book and its St. Louis roots.

“There is a very active community here,” Robbins said. “That was something I really drew on and felt proud of in St. Louis.”

Author Rebecca Shuman reads from her book 'Schadenfreude, A Love Story" in St. Louis Public Radio studios.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

As a college junior Rebecca Schuman found herself in peak-hipster Berlin, sitting in a dark, smoke-filled bar where patrons ordered Heineken through a hole in the wall.  She’d wanted to live “Iggy Pop’s Berlin,” and to do that she wanted to find living space in a loft.

A friend told her that people in a a local collective living space was looking for a new roommate That’s how she found herself sitting across from a guy named Johannes who had, “shock of bright blond hair that stuck out in the electrified curls about six inches in all directions.”

Schuman  recounts the experience and a number of other anecdotes in “Schadenfreude, A Love Story,” a memoir. She'll discuss the book Sunday during a book launch at Urban Chestnut in The Grove.

"Is that Kafka?" cover and Kurt Beals
Kurt Beals | Provided

Even if the iconic German-language writer Franz Kafka doesn’t cross your mind on a regular basis, you may still hear the adjective “Kafkaesque” from time to time and think: gloomy, nonsensical.

But a St. Louis translator says Kafka was darn near a jolly, optimistic fellow.

Drew Heitzler's Gravity's Rainbow
Provided by Amy Granat

Drew Heitzler’s latest work examines the intersection between St. Louis, Los Angeles, and a book that momentarily broke the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. 

Heitzler's show is the current exhibit at Parapet/RealHumans, a gallery space in the Fox Park neighborhood. It draws attention to a moment in 1974 when the Pulitzer Prize for fiction wasn’t awarded. 

Eileen Myles
Libby Lewis

Writer Eileen Myles’ seems poised on the brink of widespread recognition. This fall she’s publishing two books: “I Must Be Living Twice” and “Chelsea Girls,” which collect new and selected poems and capture the downtown New York of the 1970s in a novel. Much of Myles’ work deals with life in New York City yet the author said her themes and content also exist in cities like St. Louis.

Author David Grossman
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Internationally recognized author David Grossman returns to St. Louis this week for the first time in 30 years. And 30 years ago, his visit to St. Louis marked a different milestone for the author.

“It was the first time I opened my mouth in English and I realized that I’m able more or less to communicate. Until then I was sure I could only do it in Hebrew,” he said.

Zines like those stacked on Nickey Rainey's table will be available at the Small Press expo
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Update 9/29:  Organizers for the St. Louis Small Press Expo report attendance at 900 people, roughly double the number of participants during the event's inaugural year.

The St. Louis Small Press Expo is designed to promote St. Louis writers and book makers from marginalized communities.

“It’s important that each of us not only represent a community of the kind of books and art that we make but we also tend to represent different communities in terms of our contributors and the kind of stories they’re telling,” said Jared Rourke who publishes Queer Young Cowboys, "And so we focus on queer issues; we have a lot of women’s issues; we have issues that are important to people of color.”

What is Punk? chronicles punk history for kids.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Eric Morse first heard the term “punk” as a child while listening to the radio with his parents during the Christmas holidays.  His response was instant.

“I remember saying’ I don’t know what punk is but I don’t like it’” said Morse.

Clockwise from top left, Damon Davis, Freida Wheaton, Michael Castro, Brian Owens, Lee Patton Chiles, De Nichols
St. Louis Public Radio file photos

For the past year, a tragic and powerful muse has fed the energy and work of St. Louis-area artists.

The shooting death of Michael Brown and the unpeeling of issues that followed have inspired a bounty of work with a social-justice mission. As we near the Aug. 9 anniversary of Brown’s death, we talked with a number of arts professionals about their work in the wake of the turmoil:

Actor LeVar Burton is bringing Reading Rainbow back for the digital age thanks to a Kickstarter campaign.
readingrainbow.com

To say actor LeVar Burton likes libraries would be an understatement. And it’s not just because he was the host of “Reading Rainbow” for 26 years.

“I love libraries. I think libraries are really underutilized national resources,” Burton told “St. Louis on the Air” producer Katie Cook on Tuesday. “Libraries ensure that all citizens in this country have access to the knowledge, the information. Libraries are sanctuaries. They’re like churches for me.”

Portraits of Purpose Ken Cooper
Courtesy of Ken Cooper

Former Post-Dispatch and St. Louis American reporter Ken Cooper just published his first book, "Portraits of Purpose: A Tribute to Leadership."  The book is a collaboration with the photographer Don West and chronicles the lives of influential Bostonian African Americans. Yet, nestled within the book’s 116 profiles are the stories of five St. Louisans.

St. Louis Symphony Music Director David Robertson announces 2015-2016 season
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Symphony will focus on the intersection of literature and classical music for its 2015-2016 season. St. Louis Symphony Music Director David Robertson said the story told through music can mimic that of a grand novel.

“What’s fun is when you make a concert program and you put several of these things together for the audience members in the concert, they actually hear a story that’s unique to them,” he said.

At a recent academic conference, Michigan State University professor Natalie Phillips stole a glance around the room. A speaker was talking but the audience was fidgety. Some people were conferring among themselves, or reading notes. One person had dozed off.