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College of Arts and Sciences

MFA Reading Series kicks off this month

By: Yvette Lisa Ndlovu,  A&S Communications
October 5, 2017

The first installment of the Creative Writing MFA program’s four-part tradition in which new writers read selections from their poetry and fiction kicks off this month

MFA student Sasha Smith read selections from her poetry and Remy Barnes read fiction during the first readings Oct. 5 from 6-7 p.m. at Buffalo Street Books, 215 N. Cayuga St.  

Smith read two poems, “Leaving”’and “slavecatchers.” “Both are poems about generational trauma related to the African diaspora,” Smith said. “At the heart of these poems is a feeling of displacement and lack of origin. They are responses to the daily assault on black bodies, and to be specific, I drew inspiration from Toni Morrison novels and July 2016.”

Smith received her bachelor’s in literature and creative writing from New York University and is the co-founder of The Bronx Blaqlist, an organization that promotes and hosts events that cater to the Bronx art scene. The Bronx Blaqlist highlights talent, as well as local and emerging Bronx businesses. Her work has appeared in Poet’s Country, NYU’s Dovetail and CUNY’S Thesis.

“MFA Reading series are curious things. On the one hand, people expect us writers to be reclusive weirdos,” Barnes said. “But also, there is this inherent (maybe unfortunate) desire to pull back the curtain, see what we look like in all our disheveled lumpishness and hear us read our disjointed tunes aloud. This is good for us! We need to be ushered into public spaces despite our thrashings.”

Barnes received his bachelor’s from the University of Texas at Austin. From Tallahassee by way of Texas, his work lives in the shadow of the American South. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Redivider, The Southampton Review and Smokelong Quarterly. He is currently at work on a novel.

“Reading series are important,” Smith said. “If you can lure writers out of their dens and throw them on a stage or in a room with the rest of their peers or simply the rest of their community, then you'd have achieved a worthy life goal. We teeter from isolation (in which we plunge into our caves that reek of coffee and tea) and a desire to be read or heard.”

Notable alumni of the creative writing MFA program who have read their work at Cornell in the past include Junot Diaz ‘95, Melissa Bank ‘88, and Julie Schumacher ‘86.

“I think series like the MFA Reading Series are vital to any community, academic or creative,” Smith said.

The next readings will be on Oct. 20 by France Revel (poetry) and Nneoma Ike-Njoku (fiction); Thursday, Oct. 26 by Christopher Hewitt (poetry) and Charlotte Pattison (fiction); and Friday, Nov.10 by Alice Turski (poetry) and Alice Mercier (fiction). They all take place from 6-7 p.m. at Buffalo Street Books.