Writers’ Guide to Summer Reading

Book on the BeachWhether your summer happy place is a beach chair or a shady hammock, the promise of unhurried hours in a relaxing spot with a good book is part of summer’s allure. URI’s Ocean State Summer Writing Conference authors offer a few of their must-reads for Summer 2016.

Dana Walrath

Walrath is a writer, artist and anthropologist who likes to cross borders and disciplines with her work. She’s the author of Like Water on Stone, a verse novel about the Armenian genocide, and Aliceheimer’s, a graphic memoir about her mother’s dementia. At the conference, Walrath will participate in a conversation about young adult fiction with Padma Venkatraman, as well as lead a craft session on graphic storytelling.

This summer, these two books are calling me: Elizabeth Alexander’s The Light of the World: A Memoir and Riad Sattouf’s graphic memoir, The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978–1984. The depth and generosity of Elizabeth Alexander’s soul is ever present in her poetry. I imagine this memoir about the sudden death of her beloved husband will lead me to learn much about life, love, and loss, as well as the inner workings of this poet. I am drawn to Riad Sattouf’s gorgeous graphic memoir because of its potential to humanize and contextualize the Arab world, something essential at a time when our country is awash in anti-Muslim rhetoric. Part two comes out in September and I want to be caught up!

Christina Pugh

Pugh is the author of four books of poems, most recently Grains of the Voice and Perception, which is forthcoming in 2017. She is a professor in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and consulting editor for Poetry magazine. Pugh is a workshop leader in poetry at the conference.

I’d recommend two books I’ve just finished reading: Reginald Gibbons’ How Poems Think and Dan Beachy-Quick’s (gentlessness).

Gibbons’s book is a trans-historical, trans-linguistic look at how poems work, written by a poet who is also a classics scholar and a translator from Greek and Russian. The book manages to be personal, philosophical, and craft-oriented, and is truly amazing in both its scope and readability.

Beachy-Quick’s new collection of poems is a series of long verse meditations often divided into small lyric segments. The book is terrific, very satisfying as both song and thought.

Also on my list this summer (and recently bought!) are Rick Barot’s Chord and Paula Bohince’s Swallows and Waves.

Mary Cappello

Cappello is a professor in URI’s Department of English and is the author of several books, including Night Bloom: An Italian-American Life, Called Back: My Reply to Cancer, My Return to Life, and Awkward: A Detour. She is the recipient of a 2015 Berlin Prize and a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship in Creative Arts. At the conference, Cappello will host the Legacy Tribute and give the inaugural Robert Leuci Memorial Reading.

This summer, I’m planning to catch up on the nonfiction books by the magnificent Rhode Island-born memoirist and novelist David Plante, Becoming a Londoner: A Diary and Worlds Apart: A Memoir.

The-hot-off-the-press Penguin edition of Eugene Sue’s The Mysteries of Paris, translated into English by URI English Department Victorianist Carolyn Betensky (and Jonathan Loesberg), is a page-turner that will take you through the summer and into a different world.

If you are looking to experience the still and eternal nature of words and thought to counter internet noise, try Lia Purpura’s new collection of poems, It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful, and Alexander Booth’s beautiful translation of German writer Lutz Seiler’s poems, in field latin.

I also plan this summer to read the wonderful-sounding, The Philosopher’s Plant: An Intellectual Herbarium by Michael Marder, where botany meets philosophy.

Talvikki Ansel

Ansel is a poet and the author of Somewhere in Space and My Shining Archipelago. A faculty member in URI’s Department of English, she’s leading a craft session in poetry at the conference and giving a reading.

For summer, I’m fantasizing about having time to sit outside, slapping mosquitoes and watching the phoebe fledge its young from the nest in the shed, while I reread Sarah Orne Jewett’s The Country of the Pointed Firs.

Two books I’ve recently read come to mind for recommended summer reading: In The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks, one can read about what it means to be “hefted,” the mesmerizing details of raising Herdwick sheep in Cumbria, and varieties of education. David Wojahn’s essays on poetry, collected in From the Valley of Making: Essays on the Craft of Poetry, offer a lively and wise assessment of poetry, in all of its alive and kicking energy, in our world today.

Jody Lisberger

Lisberger is the author of Remember Love. She is also an organizer of the Ocean State Summer Writing Conference and an associate professor of gender and women’s studies at URI. She will lead a craft session in fiction at the conference and moderate a conversation about writing for the screen with Rachel Harper and Rebecca Walker.

I suggest Rachel Harper’s new novel This Side of Providence. It was released in April. Harper is a Rhode Island native and she will be a workshop leader at the conference this year. This book vividly and poignantly tells an important and often untold Rhode Island story that will leave you thinking for a long time.

Tina Egnoski

Egnoski is the director of the 2016 Ocean State Summer Writing Conference and is program administrator in URI’s department of gender and women’s studies. She is the author of two books: In the Time of the Feast of Flowers and Perishables.

In honor of the centennial of the Pulitzer Prizes, I’m going to include two fiction winners on my summer reading list. The first is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer. It was the 2015 winner and everyone is still talking about how good it is. I’m looking forward to finally settling down with it. The other book is this year’s winner, The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. This novel tells the stories of several members of the South Vietnamese forces at the very end of the war and in its aftermath. The reviews have been terrific.