The Visiting Writers Series, established in 1988, features readings and presentations by authors who have distinguished themselves in literature and often meet with students to discuss the stories behind their works. The series’ mission remains the promotion of literary experiences with contemporary writers meant to engage and educate young people at LR.
All events, which take place on the LR campus in Hickory unless otherwise noted, are free, and the public is welcome to attend.
Tracy K. Smith
Thursday, February 2, 2023, 7 p.m., Grace Chapel
Tracy K. Smith is the author of four books of poetry: “The Body’s Question” (2003), which won the Cave Canem prize for the best first book by an African-American poet; “Duende” (2007), winner of the James Laughlin Award and the Essense Literary Award; “Life on Mars” (2011), winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; and “Wade in the Water” (2018). In 2014 she was awarded the Academy of American Poets fellowship. She has also written a memoir, “Ordinary Light” (2015), which was a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction. In June 2017, Smith was named U.S. poet laureate.
Her 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for the book of poems, “Life on Mars,” draws upon the genre of science fiction in considering who we humans are and what the vast universe holds for us. In poems of political urgency, tenderness, elegy and wit, Smith conjures version upon version of the future, imagines the afterlife and contemplates life here on earth in our institutions, cities, houses and hearts. “Life on Mars” was a “New York Times” Notable Book, a “New York Times” Book Review Editors’ Choice and a “New Yorker,” “Library Journal” and “Publishers Weekly” Best Book of the Year.
She wrote the libretto for an opera titled “Castor and Patience.” Rooted in a conflict over historically black-owned land, the work is a collaboration with composer Gregory Spears. Originally set to premiere in July 2020 with the Cincinnati Opera, the work was postponed to the 2022 Summer Festival. Smith teaches at Harvard University, where she is a professor of English and of African and African American Studies and the Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute.
Thursday, February 16, 2023, 7 p.m., P.E. Monroe Auditorium
Howard Bryant is a prolific baseball writer on a variety of topics affecting the game. His most celebrated works include “Full Dissidence: Notes From an Uneven Playing Field,” “The Heritage: Black Athletes,” “The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron,” “Juicing the Game: Drugs, Power, and the Fight for the Soul of Major League Baseball” and “Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston.”
He is a two-time Casey Award winner (“Shut Out,” 2003, “The Last Hero,” 2011) for best baseball book of the year and a 2003 finalist for the Society for American Baseball Research Seymour Medal. “The Heritage” was the recipient of the 2019 Nonfiction Award from the American Library Association’s Black Caucus and the Harry Shaw and Katrina Hazard Donald Award for Outstanding Work in African American Studies awarded by the Popular Culture Association.
He has been senior writer for ESPN since 2007 and has served as the sports correspondent for NPR’s “Weekend Edition Saturday” since 2006. In 2017, he served as the guest editor for the “Best American Sports Writing” anthology.
Previously, Bryant worked at “The Washington Post,” “Boston Herald,” “The Record” (Hackensack, N.J.), “The Mercury News” and the “Oakland Tribune.”
He has won numerous awards, was a finalist for the National Magazine Award in 2016 and 2018, both for commentary, and earned the 2016 Salute to Excellence Award from the National Association of Black Journalists. In addition, Bryant has appeared in several documentaries, including “Baseball: The Tenth Inning and Jackie Robinson,” directed by Ken Burns, and “Major League Legends: Hank Aaron,” produced by the Smithsonian and Major League Baseball.
The Little Read: Naomi Shihab Nye
Saturday, April 22, 2023, Time TBD, P.E. Monroe Auditorium
Naomi Shihab Nye describes herself as a “wandering poet.” She has spent more than 40 years traveling the country and the world to lead writing workshops and inspiring students of all ages. Nye was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother and grew up in St. Louis, Jerusalem and San Antonio. Drawing on her Palestinian-American heritage, the cultural diversity of her home in Texas and her experiences traveling in Asia, Europe, Canada, Mexico and the Middle East, Nye uses her writing to attest to our shared humanity.
Known for poetry that lends a fresh perspective to ordinary events, people and objects, Nye has said that, for her, “the primary source of poetry has always been local life, random characters met on the streets, our own ancestry sifting down to us through small essential daily tasks.” She is also considered one of the leading female poets of the American Southwest. A contributor to “Contemporary Poets” wrote that Nye “brings attention to the female as a humorous, wry creature with brisk, hard intelligence and a sense of personal freedom unheard of” in the history of pioneer women.
Nye is the recipient of numerous honors and awards for her work, including the Ivan Sandrof Award for Lifetime Achievement from the National Book Critics Circle, the Lavan Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, the Carity Randall Prize, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry award, the Robert Creeley Prize and many Pushcart Prizes.
She has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation and she was a Witter Bynner Fellow. From 2010 to 2015, she served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. In 2018, she was awarded the Lon Tinkle Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Texas Institute of Letters. Nye is the Poetry Foundation’s Young People’s Poet Laureate. Nye continues to live and work in San Antonio, Texas where she is professor of creative writing at Texas State University.
About the Visiting Writers Series
Established in fall 1988, the Lenoir-Rhyne University Visiting Writers Series invites authors to tell the stories behind their works in a relaxed environment before an audience filled with campus and community members. The Writers Series’ mission is to build a community of readers, because it believes a community that reads is a more creative, open and tolerant community. In addition, VWS believes the beauty and power of words helps people make sense of the world. Children’s writers, mystery writers, essayists, poets and novelists all celebrate the written and spoken word.
Visiting Writers Series Support
The Visiting Writer’s Series is made possible by support from the following sponsors and grant providers: United Arts Council of Catawba County through the North Carolina Arts Council, with funding from the State of North Carolina, National Endowment for the Arts and North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.