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.Additional funding for digitization has been provided by the 2016 RRLC Technology Project Grants. Funding for captioning was provided by the Friends of Drake Library.
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 others 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, the influence of art and culture, surrealism and mysticism round out the interview.
Alan Michael Parker
Alan Michael Parker 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. 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.”
Calvin Forbes reads his 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 and his interest in idiomatic speech, African American folklore, and oral tradition.
The 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 novel Tourmaline.
Karen Alkalay-Gut and Stan Sanvel Rubin
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 and Stan Sanvel Rubin
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, Norman 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 and Stan Sanvel Rubin
Deborah Tall, a non-fiction writer, poet, and former professor of English at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, begins the interview by reading her poem “Wood Song.” She goes on to discuss her writing process, how the different places she has lived have impacted her writing, and how having a writer as a husband has influenced her. She lists writers such as E.E. Cummings, Sylvia Plath, and Seamus Heaney as inspirations. She reads her poems “Prayer,” “Winter Field,” and “Constellated,” and the beginning of “Suralia.” She concludes the interview by reading her poem “Final Elsewhere.”
Carl Phillips and Stan Sanvel Rubin
Carl Phillips's 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. He reads his poem “From the Devotions” and concludes the interview by reading “The Kill.”
Sherwin B. Nuland and Stan Sanvel Rubin
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 his career as a surgeon and as a writer.
Jonis Agee and Stan Sanvel Rubin
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.”
A. Manette Ansay and Stan Sanvel Rubin
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.”
Gerald Lyn Early and Stan Sanvel Rubin
Gerald Early received his PhD in English literature from Cornell University. He is best known for his works critiquing American culture. He begins the interview by reading a passage from his nonfiction book Daughters. He discusses the creation of Daughters and the themes of class and race that were prevalent in the book. He talks about being the editor of Lure and Loathing, and about his essay “The Almost Last Essay on Race in America,” which touches on the O.J. Simpson trial. Early discusses jazz as an influence on his writing, his work as a nonfiction writer, and his creative process while writing. He concludes the interview by talking about his poetry.
Fleda Brown Jackson and Stan Sanvel Rubin
Fleda Brown Jackson earned her PhD in American Literature at the University of Arkansas and is known for her poetry collections Fishing with Blood and Do Not Peel the Birches. She begins the interview by reading two poems from Do Not Peel the Birches, “Night Swimming” and “Learning to Dance.” The interview continues with a conversation about water as a central theme in her poetry. Jackson goes on to discuss memories and their importance in her writing, and reads her poem “Piano.” She talks about the evolution of her writing as well as how her first poetry collection, Fishing with Blood, came together. She concludes the interview by discussing her methods of teaching poetry to her own students.
Marilynne Robinson and Stanley Sanvel Rubin
Nadine Gordimer, Stan Sanvel Rubin, Judith Kitchen, and Peter Marchant
Gordimer calls herself a "natural writer" and speaks about the influence that growing up in a South African mining town had on her writing. She responds to questions about voice, rhythm, audience, narrative techniques, and her composition process for the short story and the novel. Gordimer says that the short story taught her how important "getting to the essence of things" is to her writing. She also considers the effect of gender on her writing. "The language of politics vs. the language of art" is discussed as the distinction between nonfiction and fiction. The theme of betrayal in her latest collection is examined, as well as the political efficacy of literature to effect change in human rights issues, including apartheid. Gordimer calls her essays "the one thing I can do for my nation."
Rita Dove, Stanley Sanvel Rubin, and Judith Kitchen
Dove discusses her fascination with the unseen and insignificant details of historical events and individual lives. This interest in the less celebrated moments of experience shaped Museum and Thomas and Beulah. Her careful attention to language, form, structure, and organization in her work is revealed throughout the interview. She talks about the crafting of "Parsley" as well as the organization of the Museum. Dove says she doesn't want the reader to know what is coming in a book. She says the worst thing that can happen to a poet is to be self-conscious because it interferes with the creative process. She tries not to "clutter her head" with too much literary critique and theory, particularly when she is composing.
- The Yellow House on the Corner
- Thomas and Beulah
- "Variation on Pain"
Wayne Dodd, Judith Kitchen, and Mary Elsie Robertson
Wayne Dodd was editor of The Ohio Review for 30 years. He begins this interview by discussing the connection of being a poet and an editor, and then reads his poem “Night Poem” and discusses the imagery. He continues by discussing the writers and readership of The Ohio Review, the process of choosing works for The Ohio Review, and how being a writer and reader influences his ability to choose fiction for the literary magazine. Dodd ends the interview by reading a poem titled “Remembering Rosalind” from a young poet published in The Ohio Review.
Carolyn Forche, Stan Sanvel Rubin, and Harriet Susskind
In an interview recorded November 4, 1982, Carolyn Forché discusses her Slovak grandmother; living and writing poetry in El Salvador; and her education and process as a poet. Forché reads her poems "Endurance" and "Selective Service."
Grace Paley, Peter L. Marchant, and Mary Elsie Robertson
In an interview recorded February 18, 1982, Grace Paley reads her short story "Wants" and discusses her beginnings as a writer, her switch from poetry to the short story, writing while raising children, her political activism, and her "strong streak of indolence."
Derek Walcott, Adriane M. Livingston, and Garth Fagan
Edward Albee, Stan Sanvel Rubin, Adam Lazarre, and Mark Anderson
Edward Albee was an American playwright, best known for plays such as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, A Delicate Balance, and Seascape. 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 theater 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 of 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, Stan Sanvel Rubin, and Mary Elsie Robertson
E. M. Broner was a Jewish-American feminist writer, best known for her books 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 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 Mothers.
June Jordan, Peter Marchant, Adriane M. Livingston, and Mary Elsie Robertson
June Jordan was a poet and former professor of English at Stony Brook University. She begins the interview by reading her poem,“A Poem about Intelligence for My Brothers and Sisters.” She continues the interview by discussing how she first became a poet, and talks about her own political poetry and political poetry as a genre. She then talks about the situation in South Africa during the time period of this interview. Jordan briefly touches on her future literary plans and her contribution to literature as a black female writer, and ends the interview by discussing her criticism with the feminist movement.
Samuel Noah Kramer and John R. Maier
Samuel Noah Kramer was a Sumerian history and language expert and the author of over 25 books and 150 articles on Sumer. He begins the interview by reading a piece of Sumerian literature and continues by discussing what Sumerian literature is about, the time period it was written in, and the types of literature that the Sumerians wrote. He discusses how he got into cuneiform, the system of writing developed by the Sumerians, and talks about coming to the United States as a child. Kramer concludes the interview by discussing how he became an archaeologist.