Denham Sutcliffe Memorial Lecture: Rita Dove

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“The conundrum of a writer’s life, particularly that of a poet’s, is learning to embody a paradox,” says Rita Dove, winner of the 2018 Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement, in this recording of the Denham Sutcliffe Memorial Lecture at the Kenyon Review Literary Festival. “One has to be fierce and tender at the same time. Loud and quiet. Brash and introspective.”

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The Blaney Lecture: Paisley Rekdal

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“With regard to war, I can’t help being suspicious of the very reasons we turn to poetry at all,” reads Paisley Rekdal from “Beyond Empathy, Beyond the Archive: Notes on Poetic Representation” for the 2022 Blaney Lecture, an annual lecture on contemporary poetry and poetics created by the Academy of American Poets. “Is our desire one of representation, political change, or emotional catharsis? And is that political change meant to happen on the page, or off it?”

Abdulrazak Gurnah’s 2021 Nobel Prize Lecture

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“Writing has always been a pleasure. Even as a boy at school I looked forward to the class set aside for writing a story,” reads Abdulrazak Gurnah, winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature, from his lecture titled “Writing,” in which he discusses his earliest memories of reading and writing, as well as how his observations of colonization and immigration influenced his desire to write.

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Alice Oswald: Interview With Water

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“It is a wonderful gift to be able to swim in rivers, especially on bright, clear days like these. You step into an inverted version of the world,” says poet Alice Oswald about the connection between water and grief in this 2020 virtual lecture for the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities. “The water fits around you like a velvet suit, and you float along seemingly decapitated by reflections.”

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The Writer and Life by Alexander Chee

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“One of the things that I think I can say now with a great deal of confidence about writing is that usually, the things that you are most ashamed of are actually what you should be trying to describe,” says Alexander Chee in this 2018 lecture titled “The Writer and Life,” part of Brown University’s public lecture series devoted to various forms of nonfiction writing. For more Chee, read “Which Story Will You Tell? A Q&A with Alexander Chee” by Amy Gall.

Natasha Trethewey at the Library of Congress

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In this 2014 video for the Library of Congress, Natasha Trethewey delivers the final lecture of her second term as U.S. poet laureate speaking on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the major victories of the civil rights movement, as well as reflecting on how these events cross with her own personal history and laureateship.

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James Wood

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"Home swells as a sentiment because it has disappeared as an achievable reality." James Wood, literary critic for the New Yorker and a professor of practice at Harvard University, reads from The Nearest Thing to Life, a collection of essays from the Mandel Lectures in Humanities, a book series published by Brandeis University Press.

Dreamland

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"In 1929, three decades into what were the great years for the blue-collar town of Portsmouth, on the Ohio River, a private swimming pool opened and they called it Dreamland." Journalist Sam Quinones discusses his book Dreamland: The True Story of America's Opiate Epidemic (Bloomsbury, 2015), which was awarded the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction.

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