2017 Writers' Workshop Faculty and Visiting Writers

Joiner Faculty

Amir Al-AzrakiAmir Al-Azraki received his BA in English from the University of Basra, his MA in English literature from Baghdad University and his PhD in Theatre Studies from York University in Toronto, Canada. During the first years of the Iraq War (2003-2006), Al-Azraki, in addition to teaching English drama at the University of Basra, worked as a translator for various international news outlets such as The Dallas Morning News, later working for Al Mirbad TV and Radio run by the BBC World Service Trust. He taught modern drama as he was working on his dissertation “The Representation of Political Violence in Contemporary Plays about Iraq”. Al-Azraki is also a playwright; among his plays are: Waiting for Gilgamesh: Scenes from Iraq, Stuck, and The Widow. He teaches Arabic & Muslim drama at the University of Waterloo and most recently edited Contemporary Plays from Iraq: An Anthology published by Bloomsbury, London, UK in 2017.

Lady BortonLady Borton holds three honorary degrees for her work on all sides during and after the American War in Việt Nam. She translated autobiographies by Hồ Chí Minh and Mme. Nguyễn Thị Bình (Paris Agreement signatory); General Giáp's memoir of Điện Biên Phủ; and the biography of General Giáp's childhood and youth. Lady was the foreign editor and a translator for the bi-lingual anthology of Vietnamese women's poetry, ancient to modern times. A revised edition will be out in October.

Lady has published three books about Việt Nam and edited many others, which have been published in Việt Nam. In August, Ohio University Press will bring out The Constant Listener, which Lady finished with and for her childhood friend, Susan Sibbet, who died in 2013. The Constant Listener, an imagined memoir written in the voice of Henry James’ last amanuensis as James wrote his prefaces and last works, recreates a beginning writer’s sense of James and his creative process. 

Martha CollinsMartha Collins’ most recent book of poetry, Admit One: An American Scrapbook, was published by Pittsburgh in 2016. She has also published seven earlier collections, including Day Unto Day, White Papers, and Blue Front, as well as four volumes of co-translated Vietnamese poetry. Collins has won numerous awards for her work, including an Anisfield-Wolf Award, a Laurence Goldstein Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the NEA, the Bunting Institute, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the Siena Art Institute. Founder of the creative writing program at UMass Boston, she served as Pauline Delaney Professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College for ten years and is currently editor-at-large for Oberlin’s FIELD magazine.

Sean DavisSean Davis is the author of The Wax Bullet War, is a Purple Heart Iraq War veteran, and a community leader in Northeast Portland, Oregon. He is the winner of the Legionnaire of the Year Award from the American Legion in 2015 and the recipient of the Emily Gottfried Emerging Leader, Human Rights  award for 2016. His stories, essays, and articles have appeared in the best selling Forest Avenue Press anthology City of Weird, Sixty Minutes, Story Corps, Flaunt Magazine, The Big Smoke, Human the Movie, and many more. Sean has fought in a revolution, a war, and helped save lives in New Orleans right after Katrina. He’s a wildland firefighter during the summers. He lives in the heart of the Alberta Arts District in NE Portland where he paints and writes plays, articles, and books. His forthcoming book Oregon on Fire is due out in 2019 with Arcadia Publishing.

Danielle Legros GeorgesDanielle Legros Georges is Boston’s Poet Laureate and professor in the Creative Arts and Learning Division of Lesley University. Her areas of interest include arts and education, contemporary American poetry, African-American poetry, Caribbean literature and studies, and literary translation. She is the author of two collections of poetry, Maroon (2001) and The Dear Remote Nearness of You (2016), and has presented her work and created poetry programming in Boston and internationally. She has received a number of literary awards and honors, most recently a 2015 Brother Thomas Fellowship and a 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship in Poetry.

Dahlma Llanos FigueroaDahlma Llanos-Figueroa is a novelist, memoirist and short story writer whose work is grounded in the Puerto Rican communities on the island and in New York City.  Her longer narratives, though universal in nature, are heavily influenced by West African mystical symbology and 20th Century Latin American magical realism, while her shorter pieces are grounded in urban realism. 

A 2006-7 Bronx Council on the Arts Literary Fellow and three-time BRIO/ACE award winner, her novel Daughters of the Stone was shortlisted for the prestigious 2010 PEN America Bingham Award.  She has been included in Breaking Ground/Habriendo Caminos, an Anthology of Puerto Rican Women Writers in New York 1980-2012, Growing up Girl, When Last on the Mountain, Woman’s Work and Narrative Magazine, among others.  She has completed her second novel, A Woman of Endurance and is now working on her third novel in a series of five.  For a list of other publications please refer to her web site at www.dahlmallanosfigueroa.com.

Anne LoyerAnne Loyer is an emerging film director, whose first short won the "Indie Soul" Special Recognition award at the Boston International Film Festival. She has been involved in visual storytelling throughout her career: from her two-dimensional fine art work, to narrative animations, to public art projects and performances that included her audio and video collages based on participants’ stories. She recently served as art director for the Academic Media Studio at Wesleyan University, where she produced award winning video and interactive web sites for educational use in the classroom and museum setting. She has been a guest artist at Montserrat College of Art, where she collaborated with professor Gabrielle Keller and students on a project that evolved into the Odysseus Project, an ongoing dialogue between veterans, artists and artist-veterans. Her work has been supported by grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Jane’s Trust, and a fellowship at the National Academy of Design. Anne is currently working on a script about an injured veteran returning from Iraq and the relationships he builds on his journey home. She's also helped organize the Basra/Boston project, a collaborative project with the US and Iraq sponsored by the University of Basra, Fort Point Theatre Channel, and the William Joiner Institute.

Fred MarchantFred Marchant is the author of five books of poetry, most recently, Said Not Said, out from Graywolf Press in May 2017, Full Moon Boat (2000) and The Looking House (2009). His first book Tipping Point, won the 1993 Washington Prize from the Word Works. In 2002 Dedalus Press of Dublin Ireland brought out House on Water, House in Air, a new and selected poems. He is the editor of Another World Instead: The Early Poems of William Stafford, 1937-1947, published by Graywolf in 2008. He has co-translated (with Nguyen Ba Chung) two books of Vietnamese poetry, From a Corner of My Yard by Tran Dang Khoa, and Con Dao Prison Songs, by Vo Que. He has published poems, reviews, and essays in literary journals in this country, in Ireland and the U.K., and in Vietnam. He taught for over thirty years at Suffolk University in Boston, and is now an Emeritus Professor of English and the founding co-director of the Suffolk University Poetry Center.

Michael Patrick MacDonaldMichael Patrick MacDonald is the author of the New York Times Bestselling memoir, All Souls: A Family Story From Southie and Easter Rising: A Memoir of Roots and Rebellion. He has given over 300 campus lectures as his works are frequent “First Year Experience” selections at colleges and universities throughout the country. He has been awarded an American Book Award, A New England Literary Lights Award, and a fellowship at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Study Center. MacDonald has been a contributor to The Boston Globe Op Ed page and a Senior Contributing Editor for the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University for work on the 40th Anniversary of desegregation/Busing in Boston.

MacDonald grew up in the Old Colony Housing Project in South Boston, a neighborhood that held the highest concentration of white poverty in the United States. After losing four of his eleven siblings and seeing his generation decimated by poverty, crime, addiction, and incarceration, he learned to transform personal and community trauma, becoming a leading Boston activist, organizer, and writer. His efforts have built diverse, class-conscious coalitions to reduce violence and promote grassroots leadership from within the communities and families most impacted.  He co-founded Boston’s first Gun Buyback programs as well as local support groups for survivors of poverty, violence, and the drug trade.  

Brian TurnerBrian Turner’s latest book, My Life as a Foreign Country: A Memoir has been called “Achingly, disturbingly, shockingly beautiful” by Nick Flynn and “a humane, heartbreaking, and expertly crafted work of literature” by Tim O’Brien. My Life as a Foreign Country is published by W.W. Norton & Company in the US and Canada, and by Jonathan Cape/Random House in the UK and Ireland. His two collections of poetry are Here, Bullet (Alice James Books, 2005; Bloodaxe Books, 2007) and Phantom Noise (Alice James Books, 2010; Bloodaxe Books in October of 2010). His poems have been published and translated in Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, and Swedish.

His poetry and essays have been published in The New York Times, National Geographic, Poetry Daily, The Georgia Review, Virginia Quarterly Review and other journals. Turner was featured in the documentary film Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, which was nominated for an Academy Award. He received a USA Hillcrest Fellowship in Literature, an NEA Literature Fellowship in Poetry, the Amy Lowell Traveling Fellowship, a US-Japan Friendship Commission Fellowship, the Poets’ Prize, and a Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation. His most recent book of poetry, Phantom Noise, was short-listed for the T.S. Eliot Prize in England. His work has appeared on National Public Radio, the BBC, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Here and Now, and on Weekend America, among others.

Turner earned an MFA from the University of Oregon before serving for seven years in the US Army. He was an infantry team leader for a year in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. Prior to that, he deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina with the 10th Mountain Division (1999-2000).

Bruce WeiglBruce Weigl’s most recent collection of poetry, his 13th, The Abundance of Nothing, was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. He won the Isabella Gardner Award in Poetry from BOA Editions, who will publish his new collection, On the Shores of Welcome Home in the fall of 2018.  In addition to his poetry, he has published two critical books and several volumes of translation from the Vietnamese, including The Secret of Hoa Sen, from BOA Editions, which won a Lannan Translation Series Award. With Nguyen Ba Chung he published an anthology of one hundred eight poems by Vietnamese writers about war and peace that spans a period from the Tenth Century to the present. He is a Lannan Fellow and has won the Robert Creeley Award. Weigl has been part of the William Joiner Institute’s Writers’ Workshop for over twenty years and taught the first year of the workshop.

Visiting Writers

Carolyn ForcheCarolyn Forché was born in Detroit in 1950. She is the author of four books of poetry: Gathering The Tribes, which received the Yale Younger Poets Award, The Country Between Us, chosen as the Lamont Selection of the Academy of American Poets, The Angel of History, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and Blue Hour, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She has translated Flowers from the Volcano and Sorrow by Claribel Alegria, The Selected Poems of Robert Desnos (with William Kulik), and Mahmoud Darwish’s Unfortunately, It Was Paradise (with Munir Akash). She compiled and edited Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness (W.W. Norton & Co., 1993). She has received three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Fellowship and other literary and teaching awards, including the Robert Creeley Award in 2005. She has been a human rights activist for thirty years, and in 1998, was presented the Edita and Ira Morris Hiroshima Foundation Award for Peace and Culture in Stockholm for her work on behalf of human rights and the preservation of memory and culture. In 2004 she became a trustee of the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry, Canada’s premier poetry award. She serves as Executive Vice President of Cities of Refuge, North America. A former Lannan Visiting Professor of Poetry, Forché is Professor of English and Director of Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown University. In 2017 she won the prestigious Yale University’s Windham-Campbell Prize.

Yusef KomanyakaaYusef Komunyakaa is the author of many books of poetry including Copacetic, I Apologize for the Eyes in My Head, winner of the San Francisco Poetry Center Award; and Dien Cai Dau which won The Dark Room Poetry Prize and has been cited by poets such as William Matthews and Robert Hass as being among the best writing on the war in Vietnam, and many others including The Emperor of Water Clocks; The Chameleon Couch; Warhorses Taboo: The Wishbone Trilogy, Thieves of Paradise, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Neon Vernacular: New & Selected Poems 1977-1989 for which he received the Pulitzer Prize and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.

Komunyakaa’s prose is collected in Blues Notes: Essays, Interviews & Commentaries He also co-edited The Jazz Poetry Anthology, co-translated The Insomnia of Fire by Nguyen Quang Thieu (with Martha Collins, 1995). He has also written dramatic works, including Gilgamesh: A Verse Play (Wesleyan University Press, 2006), and Slip Knot, a libretto in collaboration with Composer T. J. Anderson and commissioned by Northwestern University.

Komunyakaa is the recipient of many honors and prizes including the 2011 Wallace Stevens Award, Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the William Faulkner Prize from the Université de Rennes, and others. He was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1999. He lives in New York City where he is currently Distinguished Senior Poet in New York University’s graduate creative writing program.

Nguyen Ba ChungNguyen Ba Chung is a writer, poet and translator. He received a bachelor's degree in American literature from the University of Saigon in 1970 and a master's degree in American literature from Brandeis University in 1974. His essays and translations have appeared in Vietnam Forum, New Asia Review, Compost, Nation, Manoa, and other journals. He is the co-translator of Thoi Xa Vang (A Time Far Past), the groundbreaking novel by Vietnamese writer Le Luu, and the author of three poetry collections Mua Ngan (Distant Rain) in 1996, Ngo Hanh (Gate of Kindness) in 1997, with Tuoi Ngan Nam and Den Tu Buoi So Sinh (A Thousand Years Old At Birth) forthcoming. He co-edited with Kevin Bowen and Bruce Weigl the anthology Mountain River: Vietnamese Poetry From The Wars 1948-1993 issued by the University of Massachusetts Press in Oct 1998.  He is currently a research associate at the Joiner Institute.

Visiting Writers from Vietnam 

Nguyen Quang Thieu was born at Son Cong commune, in the Ha Tay province in 1957. Coming from a civil servant family, Nguyen Quang Thieu spent his childhood in the countryside. He obtained his undergraduate degree in Cuba.

He is the Vice Chairman of the Vietnamese Writers Association and Director of the Hoi Nha Van publishing house. Thieu has published 27 books, published two plays, 10 filmscripts and over 200 essays and articles. Some of his poetry titles include The Insomnia of Fire, Soldiers of the Village, and Women Who Carry River Water (co-translated with Martha Collins); select fiction titles include The Lonesome Laurel, Wild Grass, and The Assassin of the Field and he has won numerous awards for his poetry and short stories including from The National Literary Translators Association of America. He currently resides in Hanoi.

Nguyen Thuy Kha was born in Vinh Bao in Hai Phong province as Nguyen Thuy Kha in 1949. He currently resides in Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi. A graduate of the school of communication, he worked from 1972 to 1982 as an officer of communications in the Army. He studied at Nguyen Du School of Creative Writing from 1979-1983. Since 1990 he has worked as a reporter. He is the author of six collections of poetry, No Season, The Eye of Time, and That Moment – The Sea; five collections of prose including Shadow of the Century, Van Cao, the Man Who Walks Along the Sea, and Nguyen Thien Dao, the Heaven Exiled Composer. He has been awarded numerous prizes for his poetry and writing including a Japan-Vietnam Cultural Exchange Award for the 1992 documentary Literary Portrait of Trang Trinh.

Nguyen Ngoc Moc was born at Dong Du in Ha Nam province. Nguyen Ngoc Moc fought many years during the war in the South Eastern front of South Vietnam. A graduate of Nguyen Du School of Creative Writing, he’s a reporter for a Ho Chi Mihn city newspaper. He is the author of many novels and short story collections including Mother’s Heart, Quiet Life, Behind the Dim Light, and Regions of Whirlwinds.


Warrior Writers Faculty

Lovella CalicaLovella Calica is a writer, photographer and multi-media artist. With backgrounds in Human Development, English and social justice organizing, she offers a unique perspective and develops creative, collaborative ways of organizing and communicating. She is the founder and director of Warrior Writers, a creative community for veterans articulating their experiences. She has edited four anthologies of veterans’ writing/artwork entitled: Move, Shoot and Communicate, Re-Making Sense, After Action Review and Warrior Writers. Lovella has received three Art and Change grants from the Leeway Foundation and was honored with the Transformation Award in 2009. She self-published her first chapbook of poetry Makibaka: Beautifully Brave and Huwag Matakot: Do Not be Afraid. She is currently at work on her next book of poetry and creative non-fiction/poetic memoir. Lovella is a co-founder of the Philipino-American artist collective, Tatlo Mestiz@s and served on the board of Culture Trust Greater Philadelphia. She has trained staff of arts organizations and universities around the country on how to better work with and understand veterans. Lovella has worked closely with veterans for over 10 years, primarily post 9/11 veterans. She is part of the caregiver program at the Philadelphia VA and is helping build a support network for caregivers.

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