The September 21st Poetry & Prose reading will feature new MFA and PhD students in the UH Creative Writing Program: Tyson Morgan, Thomas Calder, Patrick James, Claire Anderson, Sara Rolater, Caitlin Maling, Allie Rowbottom, Layla Benitez-James, Michelle Oakes, Kellie Smith, Peter Kimani, Olga Mexina-Bykova, and Kay Cosgrove. Find brief reader biographies below.
Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, Olga Mexina was transported to the US at the age of 12. She grew up in New York and got her B.A. from New York University. After graduation she spent years going back and forth between New York and St. Petersburg. Currently, she is working on her M.F.A. in Poetry at the University of Houston, where she also teaches.
Patrick James was born in Salem, New Jersey. He studied classical music at the Manhattan School of Music, where he concentrated in operatic and recital repertoire. As a performer he has premiered pieces at Judson Memorial Church as well as Princeton University. Also, he performed in the theater piece, Skin Meat Bone under the direction of Robert Wilson and contributed performance as well as composition for the art-film Marriage with a Donkey, directed by Nadja Marcin. His poetry has appeared in Podium.
Peter Kimani has served as a columnist, critic and senior editor in Kenya’s vibrant national press. He took a writing fellowship at the University of Iowa in 2007, and was one of the three international poets commissioned by the National Public Radio to present poems to mark Barack Obama’s inauguration in January 2009.
His first novel, Before the Rooster Crows, was published in 2002. His latest offering is a selection of poems published in the anthology, Counterpoint, published by the Oxford University Press in Nairobi in 2010.
Kay Cosgrove's work has appeared in journals such as Zone 3, Moon Milk Review, Caper Journal and Autumn Sky Poetry, among others. She is a first-year doctoral candidate in the University of Houston's Literature & Creative Writing Program.
Layla Benitez-James is a first-year MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Houston. She is coming by way of Austin, Texas with a four year stop-off in San Antonio at Trinity University where she majored in English and minored in Creative Writing and Spanish. When she is not writing, she is mastering the art of still-lives and self portraits with crayons, or waking up and using the early hours of the morning to meditate and ride her horse, Tonka. She is enjoying getting to know Houston and her fellow creative writers. She is also hoping for rain.
Caitlin Maling has recently arrived in Houston from Perth, Western Australia so she is used to, and she enjoys, the heat. Before that she completed a Masters in Criminological Research at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom,and a BA in psychology and criminology at Melbourne University, Australia.
She has published poetry widely throughout Australia in journals and newspapers such as Blue Dog, Westerly, Going Down Swinging, Overland and the Sun Herald Extra. In 2009 she was the recipient of the John Marsden Prize in poetry, and in 2011 she was a poetry fellow at the Varuna Writers Centre (Australia's only national writers centre).
Thomas Calder graduated from the University of Florida in the summer of 2008, receiving a B.A. in English. After his graduation, Thomas spent the next two years shacking up with his mom and dad (a.k.a., living the dream) while waiting tables, writing and visiting a variety of writers workshops. In the summer of 2010 he moved to Asheville, North Carolina where he continued to work on his writing, as well as handling some odd jobs. Now a first year student at the University of Houston, he’s working on a novel and drinking lots a coffee.
Kellie Smith is a graduate of the University of North Texas. Her poems have appeared in The Comstock Review, Alehouse, and the North Texas Review. Besides poetry she also enjoys writing non-fiction and was awarded a research fellowship in 2009 where she worked with non-fiction writer and U of H alum Ann McCutchan on her latest book, River Music. Kellie is now happy to call the University of Houston her home and is looking forward to her time here as she develops her craft.
Sara Rolater is a Texan by birth who has (mostly) overcome the trauma of growing up in Memphis Catholic schools. After attending Rice and feigning adulthood for some years at a Houston legal publishing firm, she took a year off to roam the organic farms of the Pacific Northwest. She aspires to the satirical genius of George Saunders and South Park and is relieved to be back in the land of wet heat and decent margaritas.
Tyson Morgan grew up in the military, in Hawaii, California, and Maine. After attending Macalester College in Minnesota, he worked for a college access program in the Twin Cities. When he's not writing, he's probably playing basketball.
Allie Rowbottom is a first year PhD candidate in creative nonfiction at the University of Houston. She received her BA from New York University and her MFA from California Institute of the Arts. In her free time Allie enjoys horses, yoga and tea.
First-year fiction MFA student Elizabeth Winston is originally from the Washington, D.C. area, and lived most recently for twelve years on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts. She has worked as a freelance writer, editor, as a grantwriter for non-profit organizations, and as a gardener and bartender, among other things. She graduated with a B.A. in fiction and literature from Sarah Lawrence College in 1996.
Claire Fuqua Anderson, a native Texan, has worked as a bookseller, ESL instructor, and farmhand. Her book reviews can be found in the e-newsletter Shelf Awareness: Enlightenment for Readers. She received a B.A. in English and Linguistics from Rice University and is currently a first-year MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Houston.
Michelle Oakes is a first year poetry MFA student. She’s been in Houston for nearly 100 days and her car is still mostly intact. Fingers crossed.
The reading is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served. We look forward to seeing you at our first reading of this academic year.