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Ryan Piurek

Last modified: Thursday, November 7, 2002

Readings to celebrate Indiana Review's "Writers of Color" issue

Last spring, for the first time in its 25-year history, the Indiana Review, a student-edited journal published biannually with support from the Indiana University English Department, offered an entire issue featuring leading writers of color. In doing so, the publication provided a much-needed voice to those emerging writers with something to say, but few forums in which to say it.

This month, two of those writers will help celebrate the landmark "Writers of Color" issue, which has received an enthusiastic response from readers nationwide and landed several up-and-coming literary voices on the popular poetry Web sites Poetry Daily and Verse Daily.

At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14 in the Grand Hall of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center located on the corner of 7th Street and Jordan Avenue, Detroit native Crystal Williams and John Keene of New York City will read selections from their recent works. The readings are funded in part by IU's Office of Academic Support and Diversity.

"John Keene and Crystal Williams have been writing some of the smartest and most engaging works I've encountered in recent years," said Indiana Review Editor David Daniels. "They're both deeply conscientious and politically minded writers, whose work expands and challenges traditional understandings of black aesthetics."

The "Writers of Color" issue features nearly 40 writers and artists of color, including Carl Phillips, a recent winner of the Kingsly-Tufts Award for poetry; Marilyn Chin, a poet who appeared in Bill Moyers' PBS series The Language of Life; Ray Gonzalez, a past editor at the Bloomsbury Review; and Charles Johnson, former National Book Award-winner and recipient of a 1998 MacArthur Foundation fellowship, also known as a "genius" grant. Thanks to a $5,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the issue includes a 16-page color insert of artwork by Indiana artists, along with a full-color cover.

Keene has published his stories, reviews, poems and essays in a number of publications, including the Indiana Review as well as the anthologies Giant Steps, edited by IU Creative Writing Professor Kevin Young, and A Global Anthology of The New Black Literature. Additionally, Publishers Weekly selected his 1995 novel, Annotations, as one of the top 25 novels of the year. Keene, who has taught at IU's annual Writers' Conference, is currently working on publishing his first book of poems. He also sounds off on sports, books, art, architecture, and music on his comprehensive personal Web site, which can be viewed at

The "Writers of Color" issue includes a lengthy interview with Keene from June 2000, in which the author discusses everything from defining the term "black aesthetics" and identifying what is truly "American" to viewing history through the eyes of a major historical figure like Jackie Robinson.

"I see the 'Writers of Color' issue as an exciting conversation that I'm delighted and honored to participate in," said Keene. "I think it creates a lively forum of views and perspectives across cultures, and really points to the vibrancy of contemporary writing in America."

Williams, an assistant professor of creative writing at Reed College in Portland, Ore., is the author of Kin (published in May 2000) and Lunatic, her second collection of poetry scheduled for release the week of her Bloomington appearance. She received an MFA in creative writing/poetry from Cornell University, where she won the The Robert Chasen Memorial Poetry Prize in 1999.

In Kin, her first book-length collection of poetry, Williams tackles racial issues as well as the troubling realities of violent acts that occur in the nation's inner cities. She also questions how African-American artists define themselves, what they owe their culture, and what it owes them. Williams displays her deft usage of language in the poems "Negro Survival 101" and "Shop Sonnet," both of which appear in the "Writers of Color" issue.

Copies of the Indiana Review, as well as recent works by Keene and Williams, will be available at the Nov. 14 readings. Former Indiana Review Editor Shannon Gibney, who graduated from IU last May and edited the "Writers of Color" issue, is also scheduled to attend the event. Gibney won the 2002 Hurston/Wright Award in Fiction, which honors excellence in fiction writing by college writers of African descent.

Next spring, the Indiana Review will celebrate its 25th anniversary with a special issue that will showcase both former contributors to the publication who have gone on to successful writing careers as well as new writers who have never been published. Additionally, a second series of readings in celebration of the "Writers of Color" issue will take place next March and feature writers Terrance Hayes and Crystal Wilkinson.

For more information about the Indiana Review or to learn more about the upcoming readings, contact David Daniels, editor, at 812-855-3439 or by e-mail at