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University of Iowa News Release

March 13, 2003

Photo: Poet Katy Lederer

Series Features Iowa City, UI Writers March 24-28

A busy schedule of late-March readings on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series, hosted by Julie Englander on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910, will feature several writers with Iowa City and UI connections. They include:

* Amy Kolen of Iowa City will read her essay "Fire," which was included in "The Best American Essays of 2002," at 8 p.m. Monday, March 24;

* Poet and literary critic Cal Bedient, a former visiting faculty member in the UI Writers' Workshop, will read from his new collection, "The Violence of the Morning," at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 25;

* Poets Katy Lederer and Rick Barot, graduates of the UI Writers' Workshop, will read at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 27; and

* Fiction writer Oscar Casares, another workshop alumnus, will read from "Brownsville: Stories" at 8 p.m. March 28.

All the readings will be free, public events in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen on the internet at

Kolen's essay tells the story of the Triangle Factory fire of 1911 and her discovery of her family's connection to the tragedy. The reading will take place on the eve of the anniversary of the fire and will also include poetry written about the fire.

The fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, a ninth-floor New York sweatshop, claimed the lives of nearly 150 immigrant workers, some as young as 15. The doors to escape routes were locked, probably intentionally, to prevent pilfering. The tragedy eventually resulted in factory-safety legislation, and strengthened garment-workers unions.

Bedient is a faculty member at UCLA, and his previous collection was "Candy Necklace." Lucie Brock-Broido called his new poems "so risky and so intimately imagined . . . they are full of astonishment and desolation."

Katy Lederer, the writer of "Winter Sex: Poems" and "Music, No Staves," was an Iowa Arts Fellow at the Writers' Workshop. Her poems have appeared in Jacket, Fence, Harvard Review, "The Verse Book of New American Poets" and "Body Electric: 25 Years of America's Best Poetry from the American Poetry Review." Since 1996, she has edited her own magazine, Explosive, as well as a series of limited-edition chapbooks.

Rick Barot's "The Darker Fall: Poems," was published last fall. He is a faculty member at Stanford University, and his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in publications, including the Yale Review, the Threepenny Review, the New England Review, Grand Street and Ploughshares. In 2001, he received a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts

Eavan Boland wrote of "The Darker Fall": "This is a book of lyric wonders: wit that turns dark, darkness that blazes up again in music and story. These are poems of eros and elegy. But they also have a rare, unswerving quality of dailiness. The cockroach and the jasmine and the heartbroken speaker all coexist in this world, made vivid in these poems by the exuberance and skill of a wonderful new poetic voice."

In South Texas, where there are few bookstores, Oscar Casares is selling his paperback short-story collection, set in his hometown, at the check-out counters of grocery stores. "I wanted my book to be accessible to the people its stories are about," Casares told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Casares was an advertising copywriter in Austin until 1996, and an infrequent reader. "Writing books was something I didn't think about at all," he says "But I did like to tell the same kinds of stories about people in my hometown that I'd heard my uncles tell. I'd tell these stories to friends as we sat around in bars."

The impulse the write down some of the stories resulted in a sudden change of direction, including his time at the Writers' Workshop.

"Oscar's sense of focus is both acute and insightful," says Greg Barrios, books editor of the San Antonio Express-News. "Like the best writers, he knows where his story begins and where it ends."

Casares finds the universal in his Brownsville stories, which he says depict the common desire "to get ahead, to fall in love, to try and learn from mistakes and be a better person, failing at that sometimes -- these things that go into being human. And the people who feel and do these things happen to be Mexican-American."

A preview in Publishers Weekly concurred, "Probing underneath the surface of Tex-Mex culture, Casares' stories, with their wisecracking, temperamental, obsessive middle-aged men and their dramas straight from neighborhood gossip are in the direct line of descent from Mark Twain and Ring Lardner."

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,