Contemporary Writers Series

The Contemporary Writers Series brings nationally and internationally known writers to our campus to share their work and to discuss their art with Canisius students in an informal setting. Past guests to Canisius include Pulitzer Prize winners, National Book Award winners, McArthur "genius" grant winners, and a Nobel Laureate: Richard Russo, George Saunders, Edwidge Danticat, Sharon Olds, Ann Patchett, Junot Diaz, Paul Muldoon, Tracy Kidder, Tracy K. Smith, Alice McDermott, and Seamus Heaney, among others.

Founded with a grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation and continued through the Peter Canisius Distinguished Teaching Professorship Program, the writer series is generously supported today by the Hassett, Scoma, and Lowery Endowments; The National Endowment for the Arts; and with the cooperation of The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Just Buffalo Literary Center, The Center for Urban Education, and Talking Leaves Books.

Upcoming Guests 2019-20

Fall 2020Damon Young

Damon Young

Tuesday, October 13
7 pm
Live Web Event
RSVP Required

Damon Young grew up in Pittsburgh, attended Canisius College on a basketball scholarship, and earned a bachelor’s degree with a major in English. He is a co-founder and the editor-in-chief of Very Smart Brothas and a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times. His debut memoir, What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir In Essays (Ecco/HarperCollins), won the Barnes & Noble’s 2019 Discover Award and was named by NPR one of the best books of the year. It was longlisted for the PEN America Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award, nominated for an NAACP Image Award, and is a Krause Essay Prize nominee. His work has appeared in GQ, Time Magazine, The Washington Post, LitHub, Slate, The Guardian, NY Mag, and Ebony. Damon currently resides in Pittsburgh’s Northside, with his wife and two children.

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Web Resources


Abdi Nor Iftin 
Abdi Nor Iftin canisius
Photo Credit: Michael Lionstar

Thursday, October 24
Montante Cultural Center 7 pm

As a child in worn-torn Mogadishu, Abdi Nor Iftin leaned English by watching American action movies. His love of American culture—film, hip-hop music, and fashion—was so great, he became known as “Abdi American.” His dispatches from Somalia were featured on the BBC’s World Service and NPR’s This American Life. As life in Somalia grew more dangerous, he fled to Kenya, and eventually won entrance to the United States through the Diversity Visa Lottery. His memoir, Call Me American, earned starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist, and was name an ALA Notable Book of the Year. He currently lives in Portland, Maine, where he attends the University of Southern Maine, works as an interpreter for Somali immigrants, and plays soccer every Saturday in a melting-pot league of Americans and immigrants from around the world. 

Web Resources:

Michael LongleyMichael Longley Canisius College

16th Annual Hassett Reading
Thursday, March 14
Montante Cultural Center | 7 pm

Michael Longley was born in Belfast, educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institute, and studied Classics at Trinity College Dublin. He is the author of ten collections of poetry, most recently Angel Hill, and has been awarded the Whitbread Poetry Award, the Hawthornden Prize, the T.S. Eliot Prize, the International Griffin Poetry Prize, and the Irish Times Poetry Prize. He served as Ireland Professor of Poetry from 2007 to 2010, and was honored with the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2010.

Web Resources
Learn more about Michale Longley at the links below: 

Poetry Foundation Biography and Bibliography
“The Vitality of Ordinary Things”: Interview with Krista Tippett
Creative Minds at Birmingham Reading 
Review of Angel Hill
Letter to a Young Poet, BBC 

Lynda Barry Lynda Barry canisius college

Thursday, April 11
Montante Cultural Center | 7 pm 

Lynda Barry was born in Wisconsin, grew up in Seattle, and earned a degree in fine arts from Evergreen State College. She is a painter, cartoonist, writer, illustrator, playwright, editor, commentator, teacher, and the author of 21 books, including The Good Times Are Killing Me, Cruddy, One! Hundred Demons!, and What It Is. She has received two William Eisner awards, the American Library Association’s Alex Award, the Wisconsin Library Association’s RR Donnelly Award, the Washington State Governor’s Award, the Holtz Center for Science & Technology Outreach Fellowship, and the 2017 Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Cartoonists Society. Currently she is Associate Professor in Interdisciplinary Creativity, Director of the Image Lab at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, and the Chazen Family Distinguished Chair in Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


“Lynda Barry Will Make You Believe in Yourself,” New York Times Magazine 
The Longing To Make Something: Wisconsin Public Television Interview
Lawrence University Convocation Address
Lynda Barry on Comics, Creativity and Matt Groening 
One! Hundred! Demons! Publishers Weekly Review

Bao Phi

Thursday, April 12, 2018
7pm, Montante Cultural Center

Bao Phi was born in Vietnam, grew up in Minneapolis, and graduated from Macalester College with a degree in English. He is a poet, spoken-word artist, and community activist. a two-time Minnesota Grand Slam champion and a National Poetry Slam finalist, and his work has appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, including Best American Poetry, selected by Billy Collins. He is the author of two collections of poetry, Sông I Sing and Thousand Star Hotel and a children’s book, A Different Pond. He is Program Director at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, where he coordinates a number of programs, including the Equilibrium series, which was awarded an Anti-Racism Initiative award.

Web Resources:

Bao Phi's Homepage
NPR Code Switch Interview
Interview: On Writing, Racism, and Minneapolis
New York Times Review of Thousand Star Hotel
Bao Phi Performs "You Bring Out the Vietnamese in Me"

Colson Whitehead

Tuesday, March 20, 2018
7 pm, Montante Cultural Center

Colson Whitehead is The New York Times bestselling author of The Noble Hustle, Zone One, Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt, and The Colossus of New York. His most recent novel, The Underground Railroad, was winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the National Book Award, American Bookseller’s Association Adult Fiction Book of the Year, and an Oprah Book Club selection.  

Web Resources:

Colson Whitehead's Homepage
Michiko Kakutani's New York Times review of The Underground Railroad
Why We Need Stories About Slavery: In Conversation with Oprah about The Underground Railroad
Colson Whitehead's National Book Award Acceptance Speech
Colson Whitehead's Rules for Writing

Fall 2017

Belinda McKeon

Thursday, October 26
7 pm, Montante Cultural Center
15th Annual Hassett Reading

Belinda McKeon attended Trinity College, Dublin and University College Dublin and earned an MFA from Columbia University. Her first novel, Solace, won the 2012 Faber Prize and was voted Irish Book of the Year. Her second novel, Tender, was named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2015. Her essays and journalism have appeared in The New York Times, The Paris Review, The Guardian, A Public Space and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn and teaches at Rutgers University.

Web Resources

Belinda McKeon's Homepage
In Conversation with Colm Tóibín
New York Times Review of Tender
In Conversation with Gabriel Byrne
Electric Lit Interview

Spring 2017

Diana Goetsch

Wednesday, March 29, 2017
7 pm, Grupp Fireside Lounge

Diana Goetsch was born in Brooklyn, grew up in North Point, Long Island, and earned degrees from Wesleyan University and New York University. She is the author (as Douglas Goetsch) of Nameless Boy, The Job of Being Everybody, and several other volumes of poems. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Gettysburg Review, The American Scholar, Best American Poetry, The Pushcart Prize and numerous other journals and anthologies. Among her honors are fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Donald Murray Prize. She's taught English and creative writing in New York City public schools and to incarcerated teens in the Bronx. She is the founder of Jane Street Press. Currently Goetsch writes a column entitled "Life in Transition" for The American Scholar, lives in New York, and works as a freelance teacher of writing.

Web Resources

Diana Goetsch's Homepage
The American Scholar "Between People"
fayobserver "Diana Goetsch: Moving beyond 'tolerance'"
Vermont Studio Center "Resident Profile: Diana Goetsch"
Cuppa Pulp & CILK119 Interview "No Such Thing as a Nice Little Old Lady"

Fall 2016

Emma Donoghue

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
7 pm, Montante Cultural Center
14th Annual Hassett Reading

Emma Donoghue was born in Dublin. She earned an undergraduate degree from University College Dublin and a Ph.D. in 18th-century literature from Cambridge. She has written for the screen, stage, and radio, as well as writing historical and contemporary novels and short stories. Her novel Room was an international bestseller, published in 39 countries, a New York Times Best Book of 2010, and a finalist for the Man Booker, Commonwealth, and Orange Prizes. Her film adaptation won Best First Screenplay at the Independent Spirit Awards and an Oscar Nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Her most recent book is The Wonder, to be published in September by Little Brown. She lives in London, Ontario, with her partner, son, and daughter.

Web Resources

Emma Donoghue's Homepage
Excerpt from The Wonder
Emma Donoghue reads from "A Short Story"
Stylist Interview
"Emma Donoghue: The How I Write Interview"

Spring 2016

Cristina Henríquez

Thursday, March 3, 2016
7 pm, Grupp Fireside Lounge

Cristina Henríquez earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is the author of a story collection, Come Together, Fall Apart, and two novels: The World in Half and The Book of Unknown Americans, a New York Times and Washington Post Notable Book, an NPR Great Read, and named one of the best books of the year by and School Library Journal.

Web Resources

Cristina Henríquez's Homepage
The Rumpus Interview
"How I Became a Writer": New Yorker Essay
Miami Book Fair Interview
Michiko Kakutani's New York Times Review of The Book of Unknown Americans
The Dinner Party Download: A Reading From The Book of Unknown Americans

Anne Enright

Thursday, April 7, 2016
7 pm, Montante Cultural Center
13th Annual Hassett Reading

Anne Enright was born in Dublin. She is the author of a memoir of motherhood, three short story collections, and six novels, most recently The Green Road. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, The Paris Review, and The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction, and her novel The Gathering won the 2007 Man Booker Prize. In January 2015, she was named the inaugural Laureate for Irish Fiction.

Web Resources

Wikipedia Biography
James Woods's Review of The Green Road, The New Yorker
"The Unknowability Of One Human Being To Another Is An Endless Subject For Novelists,": The Believer Interview
Ten Rules for Writing
"Anne Enright on The Green Road, Short Stories and What Men Ask her at Dinner Parties": Video Interview

Fall 2015

Theo Dorgan

Thursday, October 29, 2015
7 pm, Montante Cultural Center
12th Annual Hassett Reading  

Theo Dorgan was born in Cork and completed a BA in English and Philosophy and an MA in English at University College Cork. He is the author of two works of nonfiction, Sailing for Home: A Voyage from Antigua to Ireland and Time on the Ocean: A Voyage from Cape Horn to Cape Town; a novel, Making Way; and several collections of poetry, most recently, Nine Bright Shiners, named 2015 winner of the Irish Times-Poetry Now award. He is a former director of Poetry Ireland and a member of Aosdána, Ireland's academy of the arts.

Web Resources

Theo Dorgan's Homepage
Theo Dorgan reads selections from Nine Bright Shiners
Philip Coleman in Dublin Review of Nine Bright Shiners
"This Much I Know": Essay
A Climate Change Poem for Today: "The Question" by Theo Dorgan

Kevin Kling

Thursday, November 19, 2015
7 pm, Montante Cultural Center

Kevin Kling was born in Osseo, Minnesota, and graduated from Gustavas Adolphus College. He is a playwright, storyteller, regular contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered, and the author of two story collections. He performs his stories across the county and around the world, works with theaters including The Guthrie and the Interact Ensemble of Artists with Disabilities, and plays the tuba in the trio Bad Jazz.

Web Resources

"The Losses and Laughter We Grow Into": A Conversation With Krista Tippett
Kevin Kling's Homepage
"Minnesota Original," Video Profile
"Minnesota Bus Ride": NPR Commentary
"The Evolution of One Person's Prayer"