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Campus News

McCaffery headlining 'WORDS' festival

By SUE WUETCHER

Published March 27, 2014

"Words" graphic
“Ishmael Reed, Ed Sanders and Steve McCaffery are a part of the Buffalo leadership legacy in literature.”
Anthony Bannon, executive director
Burchfield Penney Art Center

“Poetic giants” Steve McCaffery, Ishmael Reed and Edward Sanders are headlining “WORDS,” a celebration of the written word being held April 9-13 at the Burchfield Penney Art Center (BPAC).

“WORDS” is co-sponsored by UB, the UB Poetry Collection, Just Buffalo Literary Center and SUNY Buffalo State.

Joining McCaffery, a member of the UB English department; Reed and Sanders at WORDS — which will feature readings, interviews, music and dance — will be a number of leading local and national writers and performance artists. Among them are UB Poetry Collection curator Michael Basinski; composer/flutist Michael Colquhoun; UB English department faculty member Judith Goldman; poet/memoirist Tennessee Reed; Buffalo-based playwright, poet and actor Annette Daniels Taylor; choreographer Jon Lehrer; and Buffalo News arts and books critic Jeff Simon.

“Ishmael Reed, Ed Sanders and Steve McCaffery are a part of the Buffalo leadership legacy in literature. Through their genius, each in their own way projects the complexity of culture in our time,” says Anthony Bannon, Burchfield Penney executive director. “Through their work they explore core values and how we stand in the world. To have these masters — center stage under one roof in our house — is staggering. And WORDS  will celebrate and launch their contributions.”

The WORDS headliners are among the leading figures in their field.

Ishmael Reed has published more than 20 books of poetry, prose, essays and plays, and penned hundreds of lyrics for musicians ranging from Taj Mahal to Macy Gray. His work is known for its satirical, ironic take on race and literary tradition, as well as its innovative, post-modern technique. Buffalo News critic Jeff Simon says Reed “has probably done more to unclog the hypocrisies and stupidities of American culture than any other writer of his generation.”

His many awards and honors include fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation, the Guggenheim

Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts; he also is the recipient of the John Oliver Killens Lifetime Achievement Award, the Barbary Coast Award, the 2008 Blues Songwriter of the Year Award, the Phillis Wheatley Award, the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Award, the Langston Hughes Medal and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Poetry Association, among many others.

Just Buffalo Literary Center honored Reed with its 2014 Literary Legacy Award.

Steve McCaffery, David Gray Chair of Poetry and Letters in the UB Department of English, was part of the Canadian avant-garde poetry scene in the 1970s, his creative work abandoning conventionally narrative forms. His work includes sound poetry — as part of the collaborative group the Four Horsemen with poets Rafael Barreto-Rivera, Paul Dutton and bpNichol — and concrete poetry. His visual poetry is in permanent collections at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Paul Getty Research Institute in Malibu, the International Concrete Poetry Archive in Oxford, England, and the New York Public Library in New York City.

McCaffery’s poetry publications include a number of chapbooks and full-length collections, among them “Modern Reading: Poems 1969–1990” (1991), “Seven Pages Missing: Selected Texts 1969-2000” (2001) and “Verse and Worse: Selected and New Poems of Steve McCaffery 1989–2009” (2010). He twice has received the Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative North American Poetry.

His published scholarly works include “Imagining Language” with Jed Rasula (1998), “North of Intention: Critical Writings 1973–1986” (1986) and “Prior to Meaning: The Protosemantic and Poetics” (2001).

He teaches in UB’s Poetics Program.

Edward Sanders is the author of more than a dozen collections of poetry, including “Poem from Jail” (1963), the American Book Award winner “Thirsting for Peace in a Raging Century: Selected Poems 1961–1985” (1987) and “Poems for New Orleans” (2008). The author of the manifesto “Investigative Poetry” (1976), Sanders writes research-driven, investigative poetry and has composed several biographies in verse, including “Chekhov” (1995) and “The Poetry and Life of Allen Ginsberg” (2000).

Sanders also has written many books of prose, including the nonfiction book “The Family” (1971), which examines the Charles Manson murders; the fiction “Tales of Beatnik Glory” (1975); and “Fug You: An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the Fuck You Press, the Fugs, and Counterculture in the Lower East Side” (2011).

Sanders’s honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

In addition to readings and candid conversations with Reed, Saunders and McCaffery, WORDS will include more than 50 live and taped local readings and will spill over into the worlds of music and dance. Some highlights:

  • Readings and performances by Basinski, Goldman, Reed, Taylor and Colquhoun.
  • “Words in the Front Yard.” Guests invited from the community will read from Charles E. Burchfield’s journals, accompanied by sounds captured from locations where the legendary painter created some of his most enlightened work. These readings will be programmed during daylight hours in BPAC’s outdoor Front Yard space, along with readings by some of Western New York’s most accomplished poets.
  • Performance by pianist Douglas “Trigger” Gaston, a prolific composer and performer who has been featured nationally and internationally.
  • Dance curated by Jon Lehrer, who invited three dancer/choreographers to create new works inspired by Sanders’ “Poem from Jail.”  The poem will be read by three different readers, including Sanders, Basinski and Taylor. The readers will work with the choreographers in the interpretation of the poems.  Dancers include UB faculty member Melanie Aceto, Leah Fiore and Nancy Hughes.
  • “Mortals and Immortals.” Members of the Burchfield Penney Poetry Committee will read selected poems from “Mortals and Immortals,” an anthology celebrating the 35th anniversary of Poets and Writers at the Burchfield Penney.

Most WORDS events are free with admission to the BPAC, located at 1300 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo. For a full schedule of events, visit the BPAC website.