(photo: Amiri Baraka)
Here is a list of writers who have visited the University of Puget Sound over the past–well, let’s say 30 years, to be safe, but really the vast majority have visited in the last two decades. By “writers” in this instance I mean creative writers–producers of poetry, drama, fiction, and creative nonfiction. So I’m leaving out most of the splendid scholars, critics, and journalists who have visited, but your humble blogger is not suggesting that such work is not creative or imaginative. It’s just we’ve more or less agreed to apply the moniker “creative” to writers of poems, stories, novels, and plays–but not exclusively, more like conveniently. As a person who has not only written criticism and scholarly work but also reference work, such as encyclopedias, I can attest to the creativity required of such work. In fact, bibliographies and encyclopedias require an astonishing amount of creativity, particularly of the sleuthing variety.
I may be fudging a bit with Cornell West (chiefly a philosopher), Derrick Bell (a legal scholar, but his books make use of imaginative narrative in most interesting ways), and Twyla Tharp.
One more caveat: I’ve undoubtedly overlooked (or I simply don’t know about) lots of other writers who visited, so colleagues, emeritus faculty, and alums are invited to add to the list according to their memories. Feel free to comment.
An asterisk (*) denotes multiple visits to campus. Albee, Vonnegut, and Alexie visited at least twice each. The list is in random order, alas.
Rita Dove, James Baldwin, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.*, Sherman Alexie*, Hiroshi Kashiwagi, Edward Albee*, Robert Bly (gave a great poetry reading but also got an impromptu dance going in the chapel), David Wagoner, Richard Brautigan, Shawn Wong, Nikki Giovanni, Waler Mosley, Amiri Baraka, John Boe, Gillian Conoley (author of Some Gangster Pain: how’s that for a title of a poetry book?), Madeline DeFrees, Michael Cunningham, Derrick Bell, Cornell West, Joseph Donahue, Richard Murphy, Richard Wiley, Chuck D, Ellen Sandler (a writer for television and cinema), Twyla Tharp (yes, chiefly a choreographer, but also an author of a book about creativity), Robert Pinsky, Sam Green, Mark Halliday, Gertrude Schnackenberg, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Laura Jensen, Rick Jones, Bruce George, Antonio Edwards, Terry Brooks, Colleen McElroy, Michael Nava, John Davies (Welsh author, fine poet), Suzanne Matson, Lex Runciman, and Bruce Patneaude.
Glancing at the list, one wants first to express gratitude: how lucky we’ve been to have hosted so many good writers representing such a wide spectrum of literature. So let a general “thank you” go forth. Second, one does of course always (and selfishly) want more: more authors, please; keep it going! Third, it might be especially productive and educational to invite more Asian American writers, more Latino/a writers, more Canadian writers, more writers of so-called “genre” fiction (Mosley and Nava write detective novels, and Brooks writes science fiction/fantasy novels), and more international authors (Canadians don’t quite count in this category, as they are next-door-neighbors). More persons who write for the cinema might not be a bad idea, either. Graphic novelists, too!
Among this coming year’s scheduled visitors is playwright Suzan-Lori Parks.
Thanks to all the people who had a hand in bringing these and other writers to campus. Visits by writers may seem like simple things to arrange, but they actually take a bit of work by a lot of people on campus. And thanks to all the colleagues (staff, administration, faculty), students, and community members who provided they key ingredient: an audience.