The College at Brockport is proud to have served as the home of the Writers Forum for almost fifty years now. The program started in 1967 with the arrival at Brockport of Greg Fitz Gerald. He was recruited from Ithaca College by English Department chair Phil Gerber to design a creative writing program here. According to Gerber’s reminiscences, as the two met to brainstorm, Fitz Gerald would always ask, “What’s a writing program without writers?” This query from Fitz Gerald led into the development of a program to bring writers to Brockport, which had its formal launch in 1968.
The program has been tremendously successful over the years at bringing both known and up and coming writers to Brockport. Some of the writers of those early years included Stephen Spender, Margaret Atwood, Robert Bly, Anne Sexton, James Dickey and John Berryman.
Initial funding to provide public access has been provided by the Harold Hacker Fund for the Advancement of Libraries.
The short story writer and novelist, Dan Chaon, discusses how he became a writer aided by the early influence of the writer Ray Bradbury, and other writers such as Alfred Hitchcock, Shirley Jackson, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Raymond Carver, Edith Wharton, and Daphne du Maurier.
Other topics covered in the interview include the craft of writing, charting as an organization technique, the role of the narrator, family and social class in his work; and being a National Book Award Finalist.
His books include Fitting Ends and Other Stories and Among the Missing.
The author, Ray Gonzalez, begins the interview by reading the poem A Tiny Clay Doll with no Arms from his book The Hawk Temple at Tierra Grande. The interview continues with a discussion of The Underground Heart, a collection of essays and what it means to a writer to go back to their childhood home and see it with fresh eyes. Various elements of the craft of writing, including form, landscape, the meaning of truth in nonfiction and the influence of art and culture, surrealism and mysticism round out the interview.
Alan Michael Parker
Alan Michael Parker, a poet, novelist, and professor of English at Davidson College, whose poems have appeared in such publications as The Yale Review, The American Poetry Review, and The New Yorker. He begins the interview by reading his poem “The Work”. He goes on to discuss his early poetic influences, such as his own mother and the array of books she kept in his house when he was young, including books by poets such as Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Carl Sandberg, and Robert Frost. Other early influences include professors from his undergraduate studies, as well as popular culture and commercialism. In the interview, Parker touches on how empty space and the “unsaid” is important in poetry, and discusses how the imagery of male power in his work is a rhetoric device. The interview concludes with the last poem in his collection Love Songs, titled “Wheel, O Wheel.”
The poet, Calvin Forbes, reads from his work the poems "Kindness" and "Mama's Boy". He discusses the influences of John Donne, metaphysical poetry, public libraries and music, especially jazz, on his work. The interview ends with a discussion of the structure of poetry, his interest in idiomatic speech, African American folklore and oral tradition.
The writer and novelist, Joanna Scott, talks with Ralph Black and Anne Panning about the craft of writing. They discuss elements such as character, setting and language, what it means to be an experimental writer, and other writers who have influenced her writing, such as Chekhov and Faulkner.
Scott opens and closes the interview with reading from her most recent novel, Tourmaline.
Karen Alkalay-Gut is an award-winning poet and professor at Tel Aviv University in Israel. She starts the interview by reading her poems, “Plea for a Moratorium on Poems About Jerusalem” and “Belly Dancing, Tel Aviv, March 2002.” She goes on to discuss how poets such as Theodore Roethke and Yehuda Amichai, as well as the influence of music and the feminist movement, have inspired her own poetry. Throughout the interview, she describes how poetry should be a response to our rapidly transitioning lives, as well as be able to connect different types of people. She concludes the interview by reading her poem “a poem” from her book Mechitza.
Kevin Clark is a poet and professor at California Polytechnic State University, whose work has appeared in publications such as The Antioch Review and The Georgia Review. He begins the interview by reading his poem, “Parallel Paths.” He goes on to discuss how sex and love, and specifically marital love, are two important factors in his poetry as portrayed in his poem titled “The Gift.” He lists influences such as Robert Frost, Alfred Prufrock, Normal Dubie, and jazz music. The interview concludes with Clark reading his poem, “Our Children Playing Catch in the Evening of No Warning.”
Deborah Anne Tall
Deborah Tall was a non-fiction writer, poet, and former professor of English at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. She begins the interview by reading her poem, “Wood Song.” She goes on to discuss her writing process, how the different places she lived impacted her writing, and how having a writer as a husband influenced her. She listed writers such as E.E. Cummings, Sylvia Plath, and Seamus Heaney as inspirations. Throughout the interview, she reads her poems, “Prayer”, “Winter Field”, “Constellated”, and the beginning of “Suralia”. She concludes the interview by reading her poem, “Final Elsewhere.”
Carl Phillips is a poet and professor of English and African-American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, whose works include the poetry collections “In the Blood”, “Cortège”, “From the Devotions”, “Pastoral”, and “The Tether”. He starts off the interview by reading his poem “The Trees”. He goes on to discuss how struggling with his identity helped influence his early work. The interview continues with a conversation on spirituality, and how poetry should be an inclusive medium to cope with issues in a person’s life. Within the interview, he reads his poem “From the Devotions”, and concludes the interview by reading “The Kill”.
Sherwin B. Nuland
The non-fiction writer, surgeon, and former professor at Yale School of Medicine, Sherwin B. Nuland, begins the interview by reading a passage from his book The Mystery Within. The interview continues with Nuland discussing his writing process, and how English gave him autonomy, as no one in his household knew the language. He goes on to discuss the reaction his book received, and ends the interview by discussing how uncertainty has influenced both his career as a surgeon and as a writer.
Jonis Agee is a poet, fiction writer, and professor of English. She earned her PHD in English and Creative Writing from Binghamton University, and can claim three of her published titles as New York Times Notable Books. She begins the interview by reading the short story “Listen”, from her collection A .38 Special and a Broken Heart. Agee goes on to discuss how she’d wanted to be a writer from a very young age, but only started writing poetry during her undergraduate studies, and then fiction when she was in her early 30’s. The interview continues with a conversation about the plot, characters and controversy within her first novel, Sweet Eyes and within her second novel, Strange Angels, and discusses how western culture, and specifically country music and western movies, influenced her novels. Agee ends the interview by reading the short story “Asparagus”, again from her collection A .38 Special and a Broken Heart.
A. Manette Ansay
A. Manette Ansay is an author known for works such as her short story collection, Read This and Tell Me What it Says, and her popular novel, Vinegar Hill. She starts off the interview by reading a short excerpt from Vinegar Hill. She continues by talking about how Vinegar Hill originated, how her own life heavily influenced her writing and especially that novel, and the reviews and critiques of the novel. She then goes on to discuss how health problems caused her to begin writing poetry when she was 23, and how the MFA program she was accepted to at Cornell shaped her as writer. Ansay then reads her poem titled “Nothing Wrong”, and ends the interview by reading her short story “Lies” from Read This and Tell Me What it Says.
Edward F. Albee III
Edward Albee was an American playwright, best known for plays such as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, A Delicate Balance and Seascape, which both won the Pulitzer Prizes for Drama in 1966 and 1975, respectively. The interview begins with a discussion about creative art and its usefulness in sending messages to an audience. Albee then discusses the different types of theatre and how they appeal to different audiences. He continues by talking about the plays he has adapted from books, the criticism he’s received for those adaptions, and a general discussion on why his critics critique him so harshly. The interview concludes with a discourse on film as a medium, the future of playwriting, and a discussion about Albee’s own plays and his writing process.
Esther M. Broner
E. M. Broner was a Jewish-American feminist writer, best known for her novels Weave of Women, Her Mothers, Journal-Nocturnal and Seven Stories, and Summer is a Foreign Land. She begins the interview by reading a passage from her novel, Weave of Women. Broner continues by defining the feminist writer, discussing the intentional and unintentional exclusion of women in writing, and talking about her connections to women in her own life. She then discusses the writing process behind Her Mothers, and talks about the modern relationship between mothers and daughters. She concludes the interview by discussing the evolution of women as writers, and by reading a passage from the end of her novel, Her Mothers.
Gene Roddenberry was a producer and screenwriter, best known for creating the original television series Star Trek. Roddenberry was also a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Explorer’s Club of New York City, among many other organizations. The interview begins with a brief discussion about a new Star Trek movie on which Roddenberry was executive consultant. They then delve into where the initial idea for the Star Trek series came from, and how Star Trek was able to break the boundaries of what a typical science-fiction plot consisted of. Roddenberry then discusses diversity on the original show, and what he was able to get away with in terms of casting during that particular time period. He finishes by talking about the development of television as a medium, as well as discussing some of the issues that he and the other show writers had with their directors.
Margaret Atwood, an award-winning Canadian poet and novelist, begins the interview by reading her poem “You Begin”. She continues by discussing the oral experience of poetry, as well as outlining the distinction between the creative processes of poetry and fiction writing. She goes on to discuss the different relationships she has with her different national audiences, and addresses her label as a feminist writer. The interview concludes with a discussion about the public and financial support for the arts in Canada.