MFA Creative Writing
Fiction | Creative Nonfiction | Poetry

  Dept. of English
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Distinguished Writers Series, Fall 2021

Until last year visitors had never been permitted to see the most magical part of the Hunter MFA, the evenings when a famous writer visits a class and engages with our talented ambitious students. But now we are in the age of Zoom and we will admit you as a trusted visitor.

Said Sayrafiezadeh

Date: Thursday, September 23, at 6:30pm

Location: ZOOM

American Estrangement, the most recent collection of short stories by Hunter MFA faculty member Said Sayrafiezadeh, is one of Literary Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2021. Sayrafiezadeh has been hailed by Philip Gourevitch as "a masterful storyteller working from deep in the American grain." His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and the Best American Short Stories. He won the Whiting Award for his memoir When Skateboards Will Be Free. Sayrafiezadeh's other short story collection, Brief Encounters With the Enemy, was short-listed for the 2014 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for debut fiction. He leads the Creative Nonfiction track in Hunter's MFA program.


Phil Klay

Date: Tuesday, October 5, at 7:30pm

Location: Hunter West, 8th Floor Faculty Dining Room

Hunter alum and National Book Award Winner Phil Klay joins us in person. The LA Times describes Phil Klay's latest book, Missionaries, as "beautiful, violent and almost perfect." The New York Times Book Review gave this praise: "Klay's understanding of Colombia, the main theater of war in Missionaries, is the chief source of admiration for this reviewer. There are no simple wars, of course, but the Colombian conflict is as intricate as they come." In 2020, the book was featured on the Wall Street Journal's Ten Best Books list and was a New York Times Notable Book. Barack Obama also selected it as one of the best books of the year. In 2014, Klay's debut short fiction collection, Redeployment, about soldiers serving in the Iraq War, won the National Book Award, and the John Leonard Award from the National Book Critics Circle for the best book in any genre. Klay is a contributor to Granta, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and was named a Hodder Fellow at Princeton.


Greg Pardlo

Date: Thursday, Thurs, October 21, at 6:30pm

Location: ZOOM

Greg Pardlo's poetry collection Digest won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. The Pulitzer judges cited his "clear voiced poems that bring readers the news from 21st Century America, rich with thought, ideas and histories public and private." Pardlo's book Totem won the APR/Honickman First Book Prize. His work has been praised for its "language simultaneously urban and highbrow" with "snapshots of a life that is so specific it becomes universal." His poems, reviews, and translations have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Callaloo, Poet Lore, Harvard Review, Ploughshares, and on National Public Radio. In 2017, Pardlo was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He teaches in the MFA program at Rutgers University.


Bill Cheng

Date: Tuesday, November 9, at 7:30pm

Location: Hunter West, 8th Floor Faculty Dining Room

Now joining us in person, celebrated Hunter alum Bill Cheng is best known for his novel Southern Cross the Dog, which follows the story of a boy who survives the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and then spends several decades as a refugee, an abandoned orphan, and then an itinerant laborer. HarperCollins describes the book as "teeming with language that voices both the savage beauty and the complex humanity of the American South, Southern Cross the Dog is a tour de force of literary imagination that heralds the arrival of a major new voice in fiction." Cheng's fiction has appeared and been collected in Guernica, The Book of Men, and Tales of Two Cities: The Best and Worst of Times in Today's New York. He is the recipient of a 2015 Fellowship in Fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts.


Leslie Jamison

Date: Tues, November, 16, at 6:30pm

Location: Click here to join on ZOOM.

One of the most anticipated books of 2018, Leslie Jamison's The Recovering is a deeply personal and seamless blend of memoir, cultural history, literary criticism, and reportage that turns the traditional addiction narrative on its head, demonstrating that recovery can be as electrifying as the train wreck itself. Jamison is also the bestselling author of The Empathy Exams for which she won the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize. In the New York Times, Olivia Lang wrote, "It's hard to imagine a stronger, more thoughtful voice emerging this year." A graduate of Harvard, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and Yale, Jamison directs the nonfiction concentration in writing at Columbia University.


Distinguished Writers Series, Spring 2021

R.O. Kwon

Date: Tuesday, February 23, 2021, at 6:30pm

R.O. Kwon's nationally bestselling first novel, The Incendiaries, was published by Riverhead (US) and Virago/Little Brown (UK), and is being translated into seven languages. Named a best book of the year by over forty publications, The Incendiaries received the Housatonic Book Award and was a finalist or nominated for seven other prizes, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Best First Book and Los Angeles Times First Book Prize. Kwon was named one of four "writers to watch" by The New York Times. She coedited Kink, which is forthcoming from Simon & Schuster in 2021.

Kwon's writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Paris Review, on NPR, and elsewhere. She has received fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Yaddo, MacDowell, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and the Sewanee Writers' Conference. Born in Seoul, Kwon has lived most of her life in the United States.


Marie Mutsuki Mockett

Date: Thursday, March 4, 2021, at 6:30pm

Marie Mutsuki Mockett's latest book, American Harvest, is set in seven agricultural and heartland states. It was published by Graywolf Press in 2020 and was a finalist for the Lukas Prize for Nonfiction under the former title A Kernel in God's Eye.

Her memoir, Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye, explores how the Japanese cope with grief and tragedy, set against the backdrop of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Tohoku, Japan, and her family's 350 year old Buddhist temple. The memoir was a New York Times Editors' Choice, a Barnes and Noble Discover Pick, a Finalist for the 2016 PEN Open Book Award, a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2015 and a Finalist for the Indies Choice Best Book for Adult Nonfiction for 2016.

Marie received her MFA from the Bennington Writers Seminars and teaches fiction and nonfiction at the Rainier Writing Workshop, in Tacoma, Washington. For the 2019-2020 academic year, she was a Visiting Writer in the MFA program at Saint Mary's College in Moraga, California. She lives in San Francisco.


Helen Macdonald

Date: Tuesday, March 16, 2021, at 5:30pm

Helen Macdonald is best known for H is for Hawk, which won the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize and Costa Book Award. In 2016, it also won the Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger in France. Her other books include Shaler's Fish (2001), Falcon (2006), and her most recent, Vesper Flights (2020).

Macdonald has written and narrated several radio programs, and appeared in the BBC Four documentary series, Birds Britannia, in 2010. She also helped make the film "10 X Murmuration" with filmmaker Sarah Wood as part of a 2015 exhibition at the Brighton Festival. In H is for Hawk: A New Chapter, part of BBC's Natural World series in 2017, she trained a new goshawk chick.

Presently, Macdonald is an Affiliated Research Scholar in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge.

Victoria Chang

Date: Tuesday, March 23, 2021, at 6:30pm

Victoria Chang's fifth and most recent book of poems, OBIT, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2020. Her prior book of poems, Barbie Chang, was also published by Copper Canyon, in 2017. Her third book of poetry, The Boss, was published by McSweeney's in 2013 and won a PEN Center USA literary award and California Book Award. Her first book, Circle, 2005, won the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, Virginia Quarterly Review, Slate, Ploughshares, and The Nation, and Tin House.

She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2017, a Lannan Residency Fellowship in 2020, a Sustainable Arts Foundation Fellowship in 2017, a Poetry Society of America Alice Fay di Castagnola Award in 2018, as well as a Pushcart Prize and a MacDowell Fellowship. She lives in Los Angeles where she is the Program Chair of Antioch University's MFA Program.

Carl Phillips

Date: Thursday, April 8, 2021 at 6:30pm

Referred to as "one of America's most original, influential, and productive of lyric poets," Carl Phillips is the author of a dozen books of poetry and two works of criticism. His recent books of poetry are Pale Colors in a Tall Field (2020), Wild Is the Wind (2018), Reconnaissance (2015), Silverchest (2013, nominated for the Griffin Prize), Double Shadow (2011, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry and a finalist for the National Book Award), and Speak Low (2009, finalist for the National Book Award).

Phillips's honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Library of Congress. He is the recipient of the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Academy of American Poets Prize, a Pushcart Prize, and he has been inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2006, and since 2011 he has served as the judge for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where he is Professor of English at Washington University.


Distinguished Writers Series, Fall 2020

Alex Halberstadt

Date: Thursday, September 17, 2020, at 6:30pm

There have been stacks of great reviews to quote from but we choose the celebrated writer John Jeremiah Sullivan, to sum up the magic Halberstadt has wrought.

"I remember being in a bar with Alex Halberstadt almost twenty years ago, talking about our families, when he said, 'Did I ever tell you my grandfather was Stalin's bodyguard?' He hadn't. I suggested that he write a book about it. Not in my most hopeful imaginings could that book have turned out to be as surprising, sad, funny, and engrossing as the one he wrote. This is history as memoir, and vice versa. Describing Russia in the twentieth century as a place where 'the buffer between history and biography became nearly imperceptible,' he made me feel how this is true of all places, for all of us."


Hernan Diaz

Date: Tuesday, October 6, 2020, at 6:30pm

A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Hernan Diaz has published stories and essays in Cabinet, The New York Times, The Kenyon Review, Playboy, Granta, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. His first novel, In the Distance, was the winner of the Saroyan International Prize, the Cabell Award, and the New American Voices Award, among other distinctions. It was also a Publishers Weekly Top 10 Book of the Year, one of Lit Hub's Top 20 Books of the Decade, and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. He is the recipient of a 2019 Whiting Award and one of this year's fellows at the New York Public Library's Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.


Major Jackson

Date: Thursday, October 29, 2020, at 6:30pm

Major Jackson is the author of five books of poetry, including The Absurd Man (2020), Roll Deep (2015), Holding Company (2010), Hoops (2006) and Leaving Saturn (2002), which won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for a first book of poems. His edited volumes include: Best American Poetry 2019, Renga for Obama, and Library of America's Countee Cullen: Collected Poems. A recipient of fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, Major Jackson has been awarded a Pushcart Prize, a Whiting Writers' Award, and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. Major Jackson lives in South Burlington, Vermont, where he is the Richard A. Dennis Professor of English and University Distinguished Professor at the University of Vermont. He serves as the Poetry Editor of The Harvard Review.


Claudia Rankine

Date: Thursday, November 19, 2020, at 6:30pm

RSVP: No RSVP required. Readings are free and open to the public.

Recipient of the 2016 MacArthur Fellowship, Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don't Let Me Be Lonely; two plays including Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue; and is the editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. Citizen: An American Lyric was the winner of the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Collection, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry (it was also a finalist in the criticism category, making it the first book in the award's history to be a double nominee), the NAACP Image Award, the PEN Open Book Award, and the LA Times Book Award for poetry. She lives in New Haven, CT and teaches at Yale University as the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry.

ZZ Packer

Date: Tuesday, December 1, 2020, at 6:30pm

RSVP: No RSVP required. Readings are free and open to the public.

ZZ Packer's collection of short stories Drinking Coffee Elsewhere won the Commonwealth First Fiction Award, an ALEX Award and was a National Book Award 5 under 35 winner. It became a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner award, was a New York Times Notable Book of 2004, and was selected for the Today Show Book Club by John Updike. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, Story, Ploughshares, Granta, Zoetrope All-Story, Best American Short Stories 2000 and Best American Short Stories 2003 and, 100 Years of The Best American Short Stories published in 2015. Her non-fiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, The Believer, The American Prospect, The Oxford American, The Guardian, and The New York Times Book Review. She has appeared on MSNBC as a Huffington Post contributor. She was a Stanford Wallace Stegner Fellow, a Princeton Lewis Center for the Arts Hodder Fellow, and a Lillian Golay Knafel fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.