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Three Poets from Portland Book Festival 2021

Three poetry conversations from the 2021 Portland Book Festival, featuring Donika Kelly, Atsuro Riley, and Devon Walker-Figueroa.

As part of our celebration of National Poetry Month, this week on The Archive Project we feature excerpts from three Portland Book Festival virtual events, which took place in November 2021.

We’ll hear three conversations: First, a conversation with Christopher Rose and Donika Kelly, author of The Renunciations, which Oprah.com called “a lionhearted odyssey through the self,” in which the poet “offers us the words to create our own destinies.” Then poet and critic David Biespiel interviews Atsuro Riley, author of Heard Hoard, about his inventive, lyrical new collection told in a chorus of voices calling back to his birthplace in the South Carolina low-country. And finally, Devon Walker-Figueroa, author of Philomath, which contemplates, beauty, nature, and the landscape of the eponymous town in Oregon, dives deep into language, with poet Jennifer Perrine.

The three poets joined us remotely, beaming in from Iowa, San Francisco, and Brooklyn, and the interviewers were live from Literary Arts and Powell’s Bookstore as part of an evening of literary programming.


David Biespiel is a contributing writer at the New RepublicThe New YorkerPoetryPoliticoThe Rumpus, and Slate. He is the author of six collections of poetry, four books of nonfiction, and is the editor of two anthologies. His most recent books include the memoirs, A Place of Exodus and The Education of a Young Poet, which was selected a Best Books for Writers by Poets & Writers, and a book of poems, Republic Cafe. Recipient of two Oregon Book Awards, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, and Lannan, National Endowment for the Arts, and Stegner fellowships, he has been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Balakian Award. He is Poet-in-Residence at Oregon State University where he teaches in the graduate Creative Writing Program and founder of the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters.

Donika Kelly is the author of Bestiary, winner of the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, the 2017 Hurston/Wright Award for poetry, and the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Her most recent collection is The Renunciations. She teaches at the University of Iowa.

Jennifer Perrine is the author of four award-winning books of poetry: Again, The Body Is No Machine, In the Human Zoo, and No Confession, No Mass. Their recent poems, stories, and essays appear in New Letters, The Seventh Wave Magazine, JuxtaProse, The Rumpus, Buckman Journal, and The Gay & Lesbian Review. Perrine lives in Portland, Oregon, where they co-host the Incite: Queer Writers Read series, teach creative writing to youth and adults, and serve as a diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) consultant.

Atsuro Riley is the author of Heard-Hoard (University of Chicago Press, 2021), winner of the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America, and Romey’s Order (University of Chicago Press, 2010), winner of the Whiting Writers’ Award, the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, The Believer Poetry Award, and the Witter Bynner Award from the Library of Congress. His work has been honored with the Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship, the Pushcart Prize, and the Wood Prize given by POETRY magazine.  Brought up in the South Carolina lowcountry, Riley lives in San Francisco.

Christopher Rose is originally from Seattle, Washington, and he teaches poetry, African American Literature, and Science Fiction at Portland Community College in Portland, Oregon. His poems have appeared in Fjords Review: Black American EditionThe Pariahs AnthologyYellow Chair ReviewTAYO Literary MagazineThe Hawaii Review, and others. He is a NEH Summer Institute Scholar and a Cave Canem Fellow.

Devon Walker-Figueroa is the author of Philomath (Milkweed Editions, 2021), selected for the National Poetry Series by Sally Keith and of the chapbook, So Lame (Berfrois, 2019). A graduate of Bennington College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the current Jill Davis Fellow in fiction at NYU, her work has appeared in the The NationPoetryAmerican Poetry ReviewPloughshares, and elsewhere.

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