Working in Wyoming

As a culmination of the community workshops facilitated by Mark Nowak and the University of Wyoming MFA program, a public reading and celebration was held last Thursday at the Gryphon Theather. It was a night filled with Kool Moe Dee, Monty Python, Laramie community members, and former MFA students. The evening closed with a documentary of what it means to work in Wyoming. Here are some images from the night:


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pinkmountain et jones

for your reading pleasure: an interview by mfa’er scott pinkmountain with pulitzer prize winning author edward p. jones, published earlier this week by the rumpus.  edward p. jones joined us last spring as the mfa program’s eminent writer is residence.  teaching a workshop in fiction, he worked closely with mfa students across genres.

make your own map

courtesy of luling osofsky:
article about laramie atlas project written up in casper star tribune. too bad there’s a picture of me making a weird face, but i think it’s a good article!

a taste of india.

Part of a Masters in Fine Arts nonfiction workshop at the University of Wyoming, each map designer will explore what it means to live in Laramie, both on map and in essay, said English professor Alyson Hagy [mfa core faculty member]. The project, called “Laramie: A Gem City Atlas,” was inspired by San Francisco artist and author Rebecca Solnit. Eventually it will include not only students in the fine arts class, but also art students, Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center students and hopefully the state-wide community, all with maps displayed in UW’s Art Museum in May and June.

save the date

University of Wyoming MFA Student Reading Series presents…
Valzhyna Mort & Michael Zapruder
Tuesday, March 22, 2011 @ 7:00 pm
Second Story Books
Laramie, WY

come out & you will see these things.

Valzhyna Mort
Mort, born in Minsk, Belarus (former Soviet Union), in 1981, made her American debut in 2008 with a poetry collection Factory of Tears (Copper Canyon Press), co-translated by the husband-and-wife team of Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright and Pultizer Prize-winning poet Franz Wright. There is an urgency and vitality to her poems; the narrative moves within universal themes—lust, loneliness, the strangeness of god, and familial love—while many poems question what language is and challenge the authority that delegates who has the right to speak and how. The New Yorker writes, “Mort strives to be an envoy for her native country, writing with almost alarming vociferousness about the struggle to establish a clear identity for Belarus and its language.” Her new book of poetry, Collected Body, is due out from Copper Canyon in 2011. She lives and teaches in Baltimore, Maryland.

Michael Zapruder
For years, Zapruder played lead guitar in other people’s bands until the 1999 release of his album 52 Songs. For his ambitious debut, Zapruder composed and recorded a song a week for an entire year. Every album since has marked his evolution through the restless development of his arrangements, recording techniques, and unique lyrical approach that earned him the 2009 Independent Music Award for Best Folk/Singer-Songwriter Album. Zapruder’s most recent album, the soon to be released Pink Thunder, is a collaboration with poets touring on the rock-esque Poetry Bus. He lives in Oakland, CA.

good news!

let him undress you with his eyes.

Yonta Journal is up & running & looking for submissions. The brainchild of two nonfiction mfa’ers – Katie Flagg & Irina Zhorov – this new journal focuses on art and science and the art of science.  They are currently looking for innovative nonfiction about the environment (and science, naturally). Head to the (temporary) website for more details, and please pass this along to any writers you know who might be interested.


its official: our alum Samuel Renken has won the Holland Prize from Logan House press and will see his collection of poems (much of which was first written for his thesis) published in the fall. we dug around and found some of Mr. Renken’s work up at the university website (posted back in 2009 in honor of the uw recognized “national day of the cowboy”).  congrats sam! you’re an inspiration to all thesis-writing mfa cats.

honorable mention

the UW MFA website has been named one of the top ten (er, twelve?) MFA websites by Seth Ambramson for The Huffington Post.

this is exciting to current students as it means more traffic in/out/around our program’s internet presence, which means even more and wonderful prospective applicants/future mfa’ers continuing to build a good thing here in laramie.  this is exciting for faculty and administrators who work hard – and so consistently behind the scenes – to benefit the program and the students and who deserve the opportunity for praise & thanks.

earlier this year, when the uwyo mfa broke the top-50 in the poets&writers rankings, visiting author/eminent writer of the universe rattawut lapcharoensap offered the words below in response.  we thinks they are relevant, again, now:

lists like these can be a little silly and nefarious.  they seem to imply that there’s no difference between mfa programs in creative writing and college sports team.  (their metric and ranking system seem suspiciously similar, no?)  they’re especially silly for the “bigger,” more established writing programs; nobody needs reminding, for example, that the iowa writer’s workshop is generally considered a “good” place for aspiring writers.  and the idea of “ranking” mfa programs seems so illogical as to almost be a form of American insanity.  but for “smaller” or less established programs, the list can confer public legitimacy and, more importantly, alert prospective students to the program’s existence in the first place. (rattawut lapcharoensap, via gmail, september 2010)