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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 9, 2007

Note: The Richard Burgin reading has been cancelled.

Burgin, Purpura And Kuusisto Read For 'Live From Prairie Lights' Feb. 21-23

Pushcart Prize-winner Richard Burgin, University of Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program faculty member Lia Purpura, and Iowa Writers' Workshop alumnus Stephen Kuusisto will read from their work for the "Live from Prairie Lights" radio program, which originates on WSUI-AM 910.

The free events in Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St., will be:

--Burgin reading from his latest collection of short fiction, "Conference on Beautiful Moments," at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21.

--Purpura reading from "On Looking," the collection of short essays that is a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22.

--Kuusisto reading from "Eavesdropping," his new memoir about blindness and the art of listening, at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23.

Streaming audio of the live events can be accessed at

The readings will be recorded for broadcast on "Live from Prairie Lights." Hour-long productions, hosted by Julie Englander, will air at 8 and 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 7 p.m. Sundays on WSUI-AM 910, WOI-AM 640 and KRNI-AM 1010. A program will also be broadcast at 5 p.m. Sundays on KSUI-FM 91.7. Audio archives are accessible at

Burgin, described in a Philadelphia Inquirer review as "the poet laureate of loneliness and longing," is the editor of Boulevard Magazine. He has written a dozen books, and is a five-time winner of the Pushcart Prize.

Of his new collection, Donna Seaman wrote for Booklist, "Burgin skates along the edge of realism and dark fantasy in fiction so supremely well made that all manner of fancy and menace is readily ingested."

And a review in January Magazine asserted, "It takes a masterful writer to create characters who, regardless of whether they are likable, keep the reader engaged. Richard Burgin is such a writer."

Purpura, a poetry graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, is currently a visiting faculty member in the UI Nonfiction Writing Program. She is the author of "Increase" (essays), "Stone Sky Lifting" (poems), "The Brighter the Veil" (poems), and two books of translations.

Her awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Prose, a Pushcart Prize, a Fulbright Fellowship, the Associated Writing Programs Award in Creative Nonfiction, and the Ohio State University Press/The Journal Award in Poetry. She is Writer-in-Residence at Loyola College in Baltimore, Maryland, and teaches at the Rainier Writing Workshop Master of Fine Arts Program in Tacoma, Wash.

National Book Critics Circle board member Kevin Prufer wrote, "'On Looking' is a hard book to categorize. Lia Purpura's sense of the intricate rhythms of language, her carefully constructed imagery, her leaps of association and symbols all recall the language of a poet. Her seductive, confessional voice, her need to be plain about her own experiences as a mother, a writer, and an observer of the world call to mind the works of the memoirist. And her finely tuned critical mind, her need to dissect and understand both the world and the world rendered in art suggest the work of the critic and aesthetic philosopher.

"In fact, Lia Purpura is all of these, employing the tools of multiple genres to examine, through a series of 18 linked lyric essays, what it means to observe and to write. . . . In these essays, Lia Purpura brings a nuanced, highly intelligent, critical eye to our most casual moments of perception."

Kuusisto, author of the memoir "Planet of the Blind" and the poetry collection "Only Bread, Only Light," is professor of English and disability studies at Ohio State University. Recognized by the New York Times as "a powerful writer with a musical ear for language and a gift for emotional candor," he has made numerous media appearances including "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "Dateline NBC," National Public Radio and the BBC.

Leah Hager Cohen, author of "Train Go Sorry: Inside a Deaf World," wrote "'Eavesdropping' is full of felicitous surprises, most of them stemming from Kuusisto's ability to push language past its workaday boundaries in order to deliver the experience of listening in a startling, revelatory light. But the greater surprise is the realization that this book isn't about the experience of blindness so much as about the experience of apprehending, of taking in. Ultimately, it's a clear, unsentimental book about the glories of being awake in the world."

The Writers' Workshop and the Nonfiction Writing Program are graduate programs in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

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

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