03/08 Michael Wasson & Alice Te Punga Somerville


Michael Wasson & Alice Te Punga Somerville

in conversation with Beth Piatote

Wednesday, March 8th, 2023

2 – 3:15pm

ONLINE

This event is presented by the Arts Research Center with support of Engaging the Senses Foundation, and co-sponsorship from the Center for Race & Gender and Departments of English and Ethnic Studies.


Please join us in welcoming two extraordinary poets to ARC’s virtual stage: Michael Wasson and Alice Te Punga Somerville. After their readings, they will be joined by ARC Director Beth Piatote for conversation and Q&A. This event will be livestreamed + live captioned and is free and open to the public.

In Swallowed Light, Michael Wasson writes into the gaps left by a legacy of erasure—the wholly American fracture of colonialism—where the indigenous tongue is determined to bloom against its own vanishing. These poems mourn and build with pattern and intricacy, intuition and echo, calling ocean and heartbreak and basalt, monsters and bullets and bones, until they form one vibrant song. In Once Were Pacific: Maori connections to Oceania, Alice Te Punga Somerville considers how Māori and other Pacific peoples frame their connection to the ocean, to New Zealand, and to each other through various creative works. In this sustained treatment of the Māori diaspora, Māori scholar Somerville provides the first critical analysis of relationships between Indigenous and migrant communities in New Zealand.


Michael Wasson is the author of the collection Swallowed Light (Copper Canyon 2022) as well as This American Ghost (YesYes Books, 2017). He earned a BA from Lewis-Clark State College and an MFA in creative writing from Oregon State University. Wasson is the recipient of a Native Arts & Cultures Foundation National Artist Fellowship in Literature, the Adrienne Rich Award for Poetry, the Vinyl 45 Chapbook Prize, and the Joyce Carol Oates Commencement Award in Poetry. In 2019 he was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. He is nimíipuu from the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho.

Alice Te Punga Somerville (Māori – Te Āti Awa, Taranaki) is a scholar, poet and irredentist. At its heart, Alice’s research and teaching engages texts in order to centre Indigenous expansiveness and de-centre colonialism. Her MA (Auckland) and PhD (Cornell) focused on Māori written literatures; as she sought broader contexts for thinking about the writing of her own community, she developed a twin interest and expertise in Indigenous studies and Pacific studies. Her current research project focusses on published writing by Indigenous people from New Zealand, Australia, Hawai’i and Fiji between 1900-1975. She is completing a book about that research called ‘Writing the New World’ – a podcast of the same name profiles researchers and ideas connected to the project. She is the author of Once Were Pacific: Maori connections to Oceania which won Best First Book 2012 from Native American & Indigenous Studies Association, and 250 Ways to Write an Essay about Captain Cook (2020). Her forthcoming collection of poetry (Auckland Uni Press) is called Always Italicise: how to write while colonised. Alice serves on the editorial boards of several academic journals and is the editor of the Journal of New Zealand Literature. Alice came to UBC from the University of Waikato in New Zealand; she has previously taught in Australia, Hawai’i and elsewhere in New Zealand.


Beth Piatote is a creative writer, playwright, and scholar. She is the author of two books, including the mixed-genre collection, The Beadworkers: Stories (Counterpoint 2019), which was long-listed for the Aspen Words Literary Prize and the PEN/Bingham Prize, and short-listed for the California Independent Booksellers Association “Golden Poppy” Prize for Fiction. The Beadworkers was named the winner of the 2020 Electa Quinney Award for Published Stories. Her full-length play, Antikoni, was selected for the 2020 Festival of New Plays by Native Voices at the Autry, and has been supported by readings with New York Classical Theatre and the Indigenous Writers Collaborative at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Her short play, Tricksters, Unite! was featured in the 2022 Native Voices Short Play Festival at the Autry and the LaJolla Playhouse.  Her short stories and poems have appeared in Poetry, Kenyon Review, Epiphany, and numerous other journals and anthologies. She is currently completing a poetry collection, Nez Perce Word for Shark; and a novel. She is an Indigenous language activist and a founding member of luk’upsíimey/North Star Collective, a group dedicated to using creative expression for Nez Perce language revitalization. She is one of the co-creators and current Chair of the Designated Emphasis in Indigenous Language Revitalization at Berkeley.  Her current scholarly projects include articles on Indigenous language revitalization, with a focus on Nez Perce literature and language; and a book manuscript on Indigenous literature, law, and the senses. She is an associate professor of Comparative Literature and English. She is Nez Perce, enrolled with Colville Confederated Tribes.


This reading is part of ARC’s Poetry & the Senses Program, generously sponsored by Engaging the Senses Foundation.