Fresno, CA

Fresno State, Central Valley Close Out National Poetry Month with Multitude of Events

J.M. Lesinski

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A shot of the Central Valley just outside Fresno, CaliforniaPhoto by J.M. Lesinski

With the school year coming to an end and exams on the horizon, there has been no greater need for the relief of the mind through poetry for students at Fresno State and the COVID-19-weary general public than now. A series of virtual poetry and writing-focused events are set to take place across California’s Central Valley this week, highlighting the end of National Poetry Month.

Things kick off the literary cavalcade of events with the Arne Nixon Center (ANC) virtual event, A Conversation with Margarita Engle, David Bowles, and Angela Dominguez at four in the afternoon on Thursday, April 29. Taking place via Zoom, this event is free and open to the public, featuring three distinguished Latinx children’s book authors discussing their experience in the children’s literature publishing industry and the impact their writing has had on children.

The event is the first in a ANC series entitled the Diversity Conversation Series, a speaking series focused on diversity in children’s literature from the viewpoint of the medium’s illustrators, publishers, and authors. For information or special accommodations, please email Arne Nixon Center Librarian Suzan Alteri at salteri@csufresno.edu.

The Willow Poetry Reading Series featuring poets Anthony Cody, Sara Borjas, and Joseph Rios will take place via Zoom at seven in the evening also on Thursday, April 29. Sponsored by the Clovis Community College (CCC) English and Reading Department and 2020-2021 Action Plan Funds from the CCC Department Chairs, the evening will feature a reading and discussion with three of the Central Valley’s finest award-winning poets.

The event is free, open to the public, and requires registration beforehand to attend. For more information about the reading, contact Clovis Community College English & Reading Instructor Von Torres via email at von.torres@cloviscollege.edu.

Also taking place on Thursday, April 29 at seven-thirty in the evening is the Academy of American Poets virtual gala event, Poetry & the Creative Mind. Going virtual for the first time ever, the gala reading will be presented free with pre-registration, and will feature performances of favorite poems by a number of prominent guests, including Lauren Ambrose, John Darnielle, Terrance Hayes, Regina King, Delroy Lindo, Samin Nosrat, Sandra Oh, Jason Reynolds, and Sarah Sze.

In addition to the special guests, Elizabeth Alexander will be the master of ceremonies alongside event chair Meryl Streep. U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo and Academy of Poets Education Ambassador Richard Blanco will also make special appearances and Jonathan Galassi, President of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, will be presented with the 2021 Leadership Award recognizing his championing of poetry in the publishing field and his vital role in launching National Poetry Month.

Coming up on Friday, April 30 at six in the evening is the Hmong American Ink & Stories (HAIS) Storyteller Series: Reading and Question and Answer Session with Khaty Xiong, Mai Neng Moua, and Burlee Vang. The virtual event is free with pre-registration, open to the public, and will take place via Zoom and feature readings and up close and personal discussion with the authors.

Fresno poet Khaty Xiong is the author of “Poor Anima” (Apogee Press, 2015), the first poetry collection published by a Hmong woman in the United States. She recently won the 2020 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship and a Vermont Studio Center Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council.

Mai Neng Moua is the author of “The Bride Price: A Hmong Wedding Story,” published in March 2017 by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. She is also the founder of Paj Ntaub Voice, a Hmong literary arts journal, and editor of Bamboo Among the Oaks: Contemporary Writing by Hmong Americans. She was previously won the Bush Artist Fellowship, the Loft Literary Center’s Mentor Fellowship and Mirrors and Windows Fellowship, Kundiman’s Creative Nonfiction Fellowship, the Jerome Travel Grant, and the Minnesota State Arts Board's Artist Initiative Grant.

Burlee Vang is the coeditor of “How Do I Begin? A Hmong American Literary Anthology” (Heyday, 2011) and author of “The Dead I Know: Incantation for Rebirth” (Swan Scythe Press, 2010). Vang is also an accomplished filmmaker who was awarded the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 2011 Nicholl Award for the screenplay, The Tiger's Child.

Closing out the week of events on Monday, May 3 at five-thirty in the evening is the virtual Fresno State Chicano Alumni Book Club’s Gary Soto Reading. The book club’s monthly selection for May, Soto’s “Meatballs for the People: Proverbs to Chew On,” will be discussed with the native Fresno author, who will also discuss the often overlooked proverb literary genre at length.

Soto is the author of over thirteen poetry collections. He grew up working in the beet, cotton, and grape fields in the San Joaquin Valley as a teenager, before attending Fresno City College and California State University, Fresno and then earning his MFA from the University of California, Irvine. The Zoom-based event is free, open to the public, and requires registration beforehand.

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I have worked as a professional journalist for over five years now, covering the arts, music, food, politics, and culture up and down both coasts of the United States. I have a B.A. in English from SUNY Fredonia with minors in Psychology and Creative Writing, as well as an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from California State University, Fresno.

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