Spring 2012 Bios

WAMFEST Artist in Residence Wesley Stace
Wesley Stace is the living embodiment of WAMFEST, a man truly dedicated to his own expression of words and music and to supporting the greater artistic communities in general.  His dual identity as a novelist and singer/songwriter has served him well; his impressively large song library successfully combines folk, rock, American roots and a little country while his latest novel, the titillating murder mystery Charles Jessold, Considered a Murderer, has been enthusiastically and positively reviewed by The New York Times and NPR. A born performer, his monthly variety show Cabinet of Wonders (held at City Winery in Manhattan) combines music, comedy and readings by topnotch artists like Eugene Mirman, Andrew Bird, Mary Gaitskill, Ted Leo and Gary Shteyngart.  Stace will be hosting each WAMFEST event in addition to performing alongside many of our visiting artists this year. Learn more about Harding’s “life’s project” of “putting music and literature together in new ways” at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Tuesday, April 3 @ 2 pm: “A Conversation with World-Renowned Dancer, Choreographer, and Director Mark Morris”
In the early years of his career, Mark Morris performed with dance companies Lar Lubovitch, Hannah Kahn, Laura Dean and many others. He formed the Mark Morris Dance Group in 1980, and has since created more than 130 works for the company.  From 1988-1991, Morris was Director of Dance for the National Opera House of Belgium.  He is also much in demand as a ballet choreographer, having created eight works for the San Francisco Ballet since 1994.  Morris has worked extensively in opera, directing and choreographing productions for The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Gotham Chamber Opera, English National Opera, and The Royal Opera, Covent Garden.  He is noted for his musicality and has been described as “undeviating in his devotion to music.”  In  2001, the Mark Morris Dance Center opened in Brooklyn, NY, to provide a home for the company, rehearsal space for the dance community, outreach programs for local children, and a school offering dance classes to students of all ages.

Wednesday, April 4 @ 2 pm: “Crooked Walks in Space: A Conversation and Performance with Celebrated Rock Star and Author Kristin Hersh and the Greatest Poet of His Heneration, Tom Sleigh”
After founding her influential art-punk band Throwing Muses at age 14, Kristin Hersh went on to spend the next 25 years confounding expectations and breaking rules.  Throwing Muses first gained traction in Boston. Eventually, word of the Muses got back to highly regarded British indie label 4AD and the band became the label’s first American signing. In 2003, the band released the wild and wooly Uses album; widely regarded as a precursor to Kristin’s louder, faster trio, 50FootWave. Since 2004, 50FootWave has released a series of frighteningly intense mini-albums, all available for download free of charge and licensed for sharing via Creative Commons.
Her latest solo release, 2010’s Crooked, is an entirely listener-funded recording, written and demoed in public and in full conversation with the audience meant to consume it. It was also released as an art book published by Harper Collins in the UK.  In 2007, Kristin co-founded the non-profit Coalition of Artists and Stake-Holders (CASH Music), originally for the purposes of experimenting with alternative economic models for artists. Over the past few years, CASH has grown into a widely-recognized free & open-source software foundation focused on tools for musician businesses. Think WordPress.org or Mozilla, but for musicians’ tools.
Penguin published Kristin’s first book, Rat Girl, in September, 2010. Alternately harrowing and hilarious, Rat Girl is based on her teenage diary entries from 1985 and ’86, a period during which the teenage Kristin lived in her car, crashed on friend’s floors and in empty apartments, unable to sleep for hearing the strange songs for which she is now known.

Tom Sleigh is the author of eight books of poetry, including Army Cats and Space Walk which won the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Award. He has received the Shelley Prize from the PSA, a Fellowship from the American Academy in Berlin, the John Updike Award and an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an Individual Writer’s Award from the Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest Fund, a Guggenheim grant, and two National Endowment for the Arts grants, among many others. He teaches in the MFA Program at Hunter College and lives in Brooklyn.

Thursday, April 5 @ 2 pm: “A Reading and Conversation with Serving House Books Award Winners P.K. Harmon and Barbara Froman”
Barbara Froman received early training in music at the Julliard School’s preparatory division before going on to earn degrees in Music Composition at Ithaca College and Northwestern University.  She was the Director of Mundelien College’s Creative Writing Program, taught Literature and Creative Writing at National-Louis University, and acted as a consultant to National’s graduate program in Written Communication.

P.K. Harmon is the Founding Editor of Al in Aelon Kein: the Marshall Islands Literary Reviewand former theatre director and Humanities professor of the College of Marshall Islands. A graduate of Ohio University’s Program in Creative Writing, he was recently Visiting Professor of Creative Writing for the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. He is currently a writing professor at the University of Guam.

Tuesday, April 17 @ 5:30 pm: “A Conversation with Author Michael Gray on ‘Bob Dylan and the Poetry of the Blues'”
Michael Gray is a critic, writer, public speaker and broadcaster recognized as a world authority on the work of Bob Dylan, and as an expert on rock-and-roll history. He also has a special interest in pre-war blues and in travel.  Gray grew up on Merseyside, England then went on to the University of York where he interviewed (as a student journalist) the distinguished British historian A.J.P Taylor and distinguished American guitarist Jimi Hendrix. His pioneering study Song & Dance Man: The Art of Bob Dylan, published in the UK in 1972, was the first full-length critical study of Dylan’s work. In 1977, Michael took a break from freelance writing, moved to London and worked as Head of Press for United Artists Records (UK) Ltd. – a time of punk foment. The label’s roster of artists included the Buzzcocks, the Stranglers and, er, Shirley Bassey. Gray returned to writing in the ’80s and has since then published collections on Frank Zappa, Elvis Presley and, of course, more on Bob Dylan. He now lives in Southwest France with his wife (the food writer Sarah Beattie) and a rescued Griffon Nivernais dog called Mavis.

Wednesday, April 18 @ 3 pm: “A Reading with the Poet Laureate of South Africa Keorapetse ‘Willie’ Kgositsile, Poet and Author David Henderson and Author Jeffery Renard Allen”
Poet and author David Henderson was a founding member of the Umbra Poets, an influential collective of poets and writers who were central to the Black Arts Movement. His books include De Mayor of Harlem and Neo-California. He has been widely published in anthologies and magazines, including The Def Jam Poetry Reader, The Paris Review, and Essence. His incredibly influential biography on Jimi Hendrix, including transcriptions of recorded discussions and first-hand accounts, was heralded by The Rolling Stone as “the strongest biography yet written about any rock-and-roll performer.” Born in Harlem and raised in Harlem and the Bronx, Henderson now lives in downtown New York City.

Keorapetse ‘Willie’ Kgositsile left South Africa in 1961 as one of the first young ANC members instructed to do so by the leadership of the liberation movement. He was a founding member of the ANC Department of Education as well as that of Arts and Culture. The recipient of many poetry awards, he has also studied and taught Literature and Creative Writing at a number of universities in the United States and in Africa.
Willie Kgositsile’s poetry ranges from the unambiguously political and public to the lyric and confessional. In addition to his unique poetic voice, he is also a gifted teacher. Among his publications is an excellent book on teaching the craft of poetry – not the ‘what’ but the ‘how.’
A strong feature of his work is the recognition and celebration of his influences, his friendships with other artists and, in particular, his deep love of blues and jazz. His poetry scintillates and throbs with quotations from songs, references to music and, most importantly, to musicians themselves, including Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, B.B. King, Otis Redding, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Gloria Bosman, Johnny Dyani, Hugh Masekela and Pharoah Sanders. In fact, by including jazz references Willie is following a jazz practice of quoting from one tune while improvising on another. (Bio and photo taken from PoetryInternational.org.)

Jeffery Renard Allen is the author of the story collection Holding Pattern and the novel Rails Under My Back, which won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction. His essays, reviews, fiction and poetry have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Poets & Writers and Ploughshares, among others. Fellow author Junot Diaz calls him “one of our most important writers” while author Mary Gaitskill raves that his writing is “stunning, tragic, wildly funny and most of all, alive.”

Thursday, April 19 @ 2 pm: “A Conversation and Performance with Hip-Hop Superstar Talib Kweli, Poet Quincy Troupe and Author Jeffery Renard Allen”
Talib Kweli has been a king of the New York hip-hop scene for over 15 years now. He’s brought his unique style, unequaled dedication to music and knack for lyricism to stages across the world, performing with greats like Kanye West, The Roots, Norah Jones, KRS-One and many more. His albums include collaborations with Mos Def and DJ/Producer/MC Madlib. In addition to writing and performing on his latest release, Gutter Rainbows, Tweli also produced it with a mission of creating “an album straight from his mouth to the ears of his fans.”

Born July 22, 1939 in St. Louis, Quincy  Troupe is an award-winning author of eight volumes of poetry, three children’s books and six non-fiction works. In 2010, he received the American Book Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement. Among his best-selling works are Miles: The Autobiography of Miles Davis and his memoir, Miles & Me. Other works include The Pursuit of Happyness, an autobiography he wrote with Chris Garnder that became a major motion picture and New York Times bestseller, and The Architecture of Language, a book of poems that won the 2007 Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement. Quincy Troupe is professor emeritus of the University of California, San Diego, and editor of Black Renaissance Noire, a literary journal of the Institue of Africana Studies at New York University.

WAMFEST would not  be possible without the extraordinary generosity of Bob and Patricia Pures.  For more information about our sponsors, click here.

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