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Zalaznick Reading Series

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Each semester, the Creative Writing Program announces a schedule of readings featuring both established and emerging writers. Sponsored in large part by a generous endowment from Cornell alumni Barbara and David Zalaznick, the series often also includes the Robert Chasen Memorial Poetry Reading, The Richard Cleaveland Memorial Reading and the Eamon McEneaney Memorial Reading.

Past writers have included Cornell alumna and Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison, former US poets laureate Billy Collins and Charles Simic, Irish poets Eavan Boland and Seamus Heaney, and novelist Salman Rushdie. The program has also included former Cornell MFA graduates such as best-selling author Melissa Bank (MFA ’88), McArthur Fellow and Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Diaz (MFA ’95), National Book Award finalist and Orange Prize-winner Téa Obreht (MFA ’09) and NoViolet Bulawayo (MFA ’10), Man-Booker Prize finalist.

Because of the generous endowment provided by Barbara and David Zalaznick, the Creative Writing Program invites several writers each semester, ranging from debut poets and novelists to nationally and internationally renowned writers. In the selection, we consider how writers would impact our curriculum, faculty and our graduate and undergraduate literature and writing students. Consequently, the reading series has become an integrated and valuable part of our students' education as well as of the artistic community at large since the readings are free and open to the public.

A book signing and reception follow each reading, giving the audience the opportunity to meet the visiting writer. MFA students and other graduate students are invited to an informal gathering with the visiting writer. Writers may also be asked to visit undergraduate classes or participate in events involving various student groups, and we host a continental breakfast for all undergraduate students.

To be added to the email list for announcements of upcoming readings, please send an email to

Watch archived English events here.


Spring 2017 Barbara & David Zalaznick Reading Series

ALL EVENTS ARE FREE and open to the public.

The Richard Cleaveland Memorial Reading featuring Alice Fulton and Helena María Viramontes 

When: Feb. 9, 4:30 p.m.
Location: Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium, G70 Klarman Hall

Alice Fulton, Poet and Writer

Alice Fulton's latest book of poems is Barely Composed; her most recent fiction collection is The Nightingales of Troy. Fulton’s honors include an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, the Bobbitt Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress, and fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work has appeared in both The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Poetry.

Helena María Viramontes, Writer

Helena María Viramontes is the author of Their Dogs Came with Them, a novel, and two previous works of fiction, The Moths and Other Stories and Under the Feet of Jesus. Named a Ford Fellow in Literature, she has also received the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature, a Sundance Institute Fellowship, and a 2017 Bellagio Literary Arts Residency from the Rockefeller Foundation. Professor Viramontes is at work on a new novel.

The Richard Cleaveland Memorial Reading was created in 2002 by family and friends of Richard Cleaveland, Cornell Class of ’74, to honor his memory.

Refreshments and book signing to follow in the English Lounge, 258 Goldwin Smith Hall

Reading by Jeff VanderMeer

When: Mar. 16, 4:30 p.m.
Location: Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium, G70 Klarman Hall

Jeff VanderMeer, Fiction Writer

NYT bestselling writer Jeff VanderMeer’s most recent novels, the Southern Reach trilogy, explore the limits of ecology and human understanding and have been translated into 35 languages. A movie based on his novel Annihilation, winner of the Nebula and Shirley Jackson awards, will be released by Paramount in 2017. His short fiction has appeared in Conjunctions, Black Clock, and many others, while his nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Atlantic, Slate, Salon, and the Washington Post. VanderMeer has spoken on both global warming issues and social media at MIT, Vanderbilt, the University of Florida, and many others. He is the 2016-2017 Trias Writer in Residence at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. His novel Borne will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in May 2017.

Refreshments and book signing to follow in the English Lounge, 258 Goldwin Smith Hall

The Eamon McEneaney Memorial Reading featuring Eamon Grennan

When: Apr. 13, 4:30 p.m.
Location: Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium, 132 Goldwin Smith Hall

Eamon Grennan, Poet

Eamon Grennan, a Dubliner, taught for many years at Vassar College. He has also taught in the Graduate Writing Programs of Columbia and NYU. Recent collections are Out of Sight: New & Selected Poems, and But the Body. His Still Life with Waterfall won the Lenore Marshall Prize. He has translated the poems of Leopardi (winner of the PEN award in translation) and co-translated (with his partner, Rachel Kitzinger) Oedipus at Colonus. He has also written a book of critical essays: Facing the Music: Irish Poetry in the 20th Century. His latest volume is There Now. In the past few years he has been writing and directing “plays for voices” for a small Irish theatre group—Curlew Theatre Company. He lives in Poughkeepsie and in Connemara.

This reading is made possible by Eamon McEneaney’s Cornell teammates, family, and friends. In addition to being one of Cornell’s most talented and best-loved athletes, Eamon McEneaney ’77 was a dedicated husband and father, loyal friend, prolific writer and poet, and an American hero. He died on September 11, 2001, in the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Refreshments and book signing to follow in the English Lounge, 258 Goldwin Smith Hall

Reading by Lisa Russ Spaar

When: Apr. 27, 4:30 p.m.
Location: Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium, G70 Klarman Hall

Lisa Russ Spaar, Poet and Essayist

Lisa Russ Spaar is the author/editor of over ten books of poetry and criticism, most recently Monticello in Mind: 50 Contemporary Poems on Jefferson (2016) and Orexia: Poems (2017). Her honors include a Rona Jaffe Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize, a Pushcart Prize, and the Library of Virginia Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Boston Review, IMAGE, Yale Review, Harvard Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Best American Poetry series, and many other journals and anthologies. Her commentaries, reviews, and columns about poetry have appeared regularly in The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. She is Professor of English and Creative Writing Program, and Director of the Area Program in Poetry Writing at the University of Virginia.

Refreshments and book signing to follow in the English Lounge, 258 Goldwin Smith Hall

Fall 2016 Barbara & David Zalaznick Reading Series

ALL EVENTS ARE FREE and open to the public.

James McConkey: Courting Memory

A 95th Birthday Celebration featuring James McConkey with Diane Ackerman, Gilbert Allen and A. Manette Ansay

When: Sep. 1, 4:30 p.m.
Location: Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium, G70 Klarman Hall

James McConkey, Fiction and Nonfiction Write
James McConkey joined the Department of English as assistant professor in 1956. He wrote fiction until the early 1960s and retired in 1992 as Goldwin Smith Professor of English Literature Emeritus. Known for his meditative nonfiction narratives, McConkey is the author or editor of fourteen books, including Court of Memory, To a Distant Island and The Anatomy of Memory, as well as critical essays such as his study of E.M. Forster. His awards include a Guggenheim fellowship, the National Endowment for the Arts essay award and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters award in literature. McConkey’s most recent book, The Complete Court of Memory, includes narratives published in magazines but previously uncollected. In honor of McConkey, three of his award-winning former students will read from their own works.

Diane Ackerman ‘78, Poet and Essayist
Diane Ackerman is the author of twenty-four books, including the New York Times bestsellers A Natural History of the Senses, Orion Book Award winner (and movie),The Zookeeper’s Wife, and The Human Age, which received the PEN Thoreau Award. She’s a member of the American Academy of Arts & Letters.

Gilbert Allen ‘77, Poet and Fiction Writer

Gilbert Allen’s newest books are Catma and The Final Days of Great American Shopping. A member of the South Carolina Academy of Authors and the recipient of the Robert Penn Warren Award from The Southern Review, he is the Bennette E. Geer Professor of Literature Emeritus at Furman University.

Manette Ansay ‘91, Fiction Writer and Memoirist

A. Manette Ansay is the author of a story collection, a memoir and six novels, including Vinegar Hill, an Oprah Winfrey Book Club Selection, and Midnight Champagne, finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Ansay is Professor of English at the University of Miami.

Reading by Joy Harjo

When: Sep. 15, 4:30 p.m.
Location: Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium, 132 Goldwin Smith Hall

Joy Harjo, Poet and Memoirist

Joy Harjo’s eight books of poetry include Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems and She Had Some Horses. Harjo’s memoir, Crazy Brave, won several awards, including the PEN USA Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction and the American Book Award. She is the recipient of the 2015 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets for proven mastery in the art of poetry, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America and the United States Artist Fellowship. A renowned musician, Harjo performs solo and with her band, the Arrow Dynamics. She has five award-winning albums including Red Dreams, A Trail Beyond Tears and Winding Through the Milky Way, which won a Native American Music Award for Best Female Artist of the Year in 2009. She is Professor of English and American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Philip Freund Prize for Creative Writing Alumni Reading: H.G. Carrillo, Sally Wen Mao, Adam O’Fallon Price, and Emily Rosko

When: Sep. 29, 4:30 p.m.
Location: Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium, G70 Klarman Hall

H.G. Carrillo ‘07, Fiction Writer

H.G. Carrillo is the author of Loosing My Espanish, a novel (2005). His short stories have appeared in Kenyon Review, Conjunctions, The Iowa Review, Glimmer Train, Ninth Letter, Slice, and other journals and publications. Carrillo sits on the executive board of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and lives in the Washington, D.C. area, where he is currently at work on a novel.​

Sally Wen Mao '12, Poet
​Sally Wen Mao is the author of Mad Honey Symposium. She is the recipient of a 2017 Pushcart Prize and fellowships from Kundiman, Hedgebrook, Bread Loaf and the National University of Singapore. Her work is published in Poetry, A Public Space, Tin House and Best American Poetry 2013, among others. She is a 2016-2017 fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.

Adam O'Fallon Price '14, Fiction Writer

Adam O’Fallon Price is the author of The Grand Tour, a novel. His fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, Epoch, The Iowa Review, Narrative Magazine, Glimmer Train, The Antioch Review and elsewhere. He has taught at the University of Iowa and Cornell University, where he earned an MFA in 2014.

Emily Rosko '03, Poet

Emily Rosko is the author of Prop Rockery (2012) and Raw Goods Inventory (2006). She is the editor of A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line and poetry editor for Crazyhorse. She teaches at the College of Charleston.

Reading by David Madden

When: Oct. 13, 4:30 p.m.
Location: Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium, 132 Goldwin Smith Hall

David Madden, Fiction and Nonfiction Writer
David Madden has published extensively in all genres. Among his many novels are Bijou, Sharpshooter, The Suicide’s Wife, Abducted by Circumstance and London Bridge in Plague and Fire. His most recent book of short stories, The Last Bizarre Tale, was published in 2014, and his forthcoming collection of novellas, Marble Goddesses and Mortal Flesh, will appear this coming spring of 2017. Madden has also just finished a memoir, My Intellectual Life in the Army. Among his awards are a Rockefeller Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts prize, a National Council on the Arts Award and a Pulitzer Prize nomination for The Suicide’s Wife.

A native of Knoxville, Tennessee, Madden studied at the Yale School of Drama. He has taught at Kenyon College, Ohio University, LSU and has been a visiting writer at numerous colleges, including UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as on the staff of writers’ conferences such as Bread Loaf. Robert Penn Warren Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing Emeritus at LSU, Madden now lives in Black Mountain, N.C. with his wife, Robbie, who is working for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Reading by Chris Abani

When: Nov. 3, 4:30 p.m.
Location: Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium, G70 Klarman Hall

Chris Abani, Poet and Writer

​Chris Abani’s books of fiction include The Secret History of Las Vegas, Song for Night: A Novella, The Virgin of Flames, Becoming Abigail, Graceland and Masters of the Board. His poetry collections are Sanctificum, There Are No Names For Red, Feed Me the Sun: Collected Long Poems, Hands Washing Water, Dog Woman, Daphne’s Lot and Kalakuta Republic. Among his many honors are a Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN/Hemingway Award, the PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the Hurston Wright Award and a Lannan Literary Fellowship. His work has been translated into French, Italian, Spanish, German, Swedish, Romanian, Hebrew, Macedonian, Ukrainian, Portuguese, Dutch, Bosnian and Serbian.