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Speakers Series

The Department has many events every year that are available to the general public as well as to the UT community. In 2020-2021, these events are even more accessible to the public, as they are being held via Zoom.

Iliana RochaIliana Rocha is the 2019 winner of the Berkshire Prize for a First or Second Book of Poetry for her newest collection, The Many Deaths of Inocencio Rodriguez, forthcoming from Tupelo Press. Karankawa, her debut, won the 2014 AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015). The recipient of a 2020 CantoMundo fellowship and 2019 MacDowell Colony fellowship, she has had work featured in the Best New Poets 2014 anthology, as well as The Nation, Virginia Quarterly Review, Latin American Literature Today, RHINO, Blackbird, and West Branch, among others, and she serves as poetry co-editor for Waxwing Literary Journal. She earned her PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from Western Michigan University and is new creative faculty at UT. Nilla, Beans, and Migo, her three chihuahuas, are the loves of her life.

Rebecca Gayle Howell’s most recent book is American Purgatory, selected by Don Share for Great Britain’s 2016 Sexton Prize and named a must-read collection by Poetry London, The Millions, and the Courier-Journal. She is also the author of Render / An Apocalypse, which received wide acclaim, most notably by David L. Ulin for the Los Angeles Times who called it “remarkable.” Howell’s debut was as the translator of Amal al-Jubouri’s Hagar Before the Occupation / Hagar After the Occupation, shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award and selected by Library Journal as a best book of 2011. Among her other honors are fellowships from United States Artists, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the Carson McCullers Center, as well as a Pushcart Prize. Since 2014, she has served as Poetry Editor for Oxford American.

Aya MatsudaEnglish Language Teaching in Today’s “Messy” World

English has always been a heterogeneous and diverse language, but it is only past decade or so that its “messiness” has attracted attention among English language teaching (ELT) specialists. I will begin this presentation with a brief discussion of how the global spread of English has resulted in linguistics, functions, and other diversities of the language, and then introduce the notion of Teaching English as an International Language (TEIL), a new paradigm in the field of ELT that acknowledges the diversity and heterogeneity of forms, users, and uses of English today. Using some specific curricular examples, I explore ways to better align our pedagogy with the messy reality of the English-speaking world today.

Aya Matsuda is Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics at Arizona State University. Her research interests include the use of English as an international language and the pedagogical implications of the global spread of English. She has served on the Board of Directors for TESOL International Association and recently completed her term as the secretary/treasurer of the International Association for World Englishes.

Emily NemensEmily Nemens is a writer, illustrator, and editor. Her debut novel, The Cactus League, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in February 2020 to critical acclaim. In 2018 Nemens became the seventh editor of the Paris Review, the nation’s preeminent literary quarterly. Since her arrival, the magazine has won the ASME Award for Fiction, seen record-high circulation, published two anthologies, and produced a second season of its acclaimed podcast. Previously, she coedited the Southern Review, a storied literary quarterly published at Louisiana State University.
Nafissa Thompson-SpiresNafissa Thompson-Spires is an award-winning writer. Her short-story collection, Heads of the Colored People, won the PEN Open Book Award and was longlisted for the National Book Award. Heads of the Colored People grapples with issues of race, identity politics, and the contemporary middle class, shining a light on the tensions and precariousness of what it means to be black in America. The Financial Times called it “a firecracker of a book...a triumph of storytelling: intelligent, acerbic, and ingenious.” On stage, Nafissa applies her natural and compelling storytelling ability to tackle sensitive and personal topics such as race, representation, and chronic illness. Through her engagements, Nafissa shines a light and offers constructive ways to be more aware, thoughtful and a stronger ally to disadvantaged groups. She earned a doctorate in English from Vanderbilt University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Illinois. Her work has appeared in Story Quarterly, Lunch Ticket, and The Feminist Wire, among other publications. Thompson-Spires was a 2016 fellow of the Callaloo Writer’s Workshop. She currently is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Cornell University, teaching both in the MFA and undergrad programs.
Crystal WilkinsonCrystal Wilkinson is the award-winning author of The Birds of Opulence (winner of the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence), Water Street and Blackberries, Blackberries. Nominated for both the Orange Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, she has received recognition from The Kentucky Foundation for Women, The Kentucky Arts Council, The Mary Anderson Center for the Arts, The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and is a recipient of the Chaffin Award for Appalachian Literature. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her short stories, poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including most recently in the Oxford American and Southern Cultures. She currently teaches at the University of Kentucky where she is Associate Professor of English in the MFA in Creative Writing Program.

Analicia Sotelo & José OlivarezAnalicia Sotelo is the author of Virgin, the inaugural winner of the Jake Adam York Prize, selected by Ross Gay for Milkweed Editions, 2018. She is also the author of the chapbook, Nonstop Godhead, selected by Rigoberto González for a 2016 Poetry Society of America National Chapbook Fellowship. Her poem “I’m Trying to Write a Poem About a Virgin and It’s Awful” was selected for Best New Poets 2015 by Tracy K. Smith. Poems have also appeared in the New Yorker, Boston Review, FIELD, Kenyon Review, New England Review, and The Antioch Review. She is the recipient of the 2016 DISQUIET International Literary Prize, a Canto Mundo fellowship, and scholarships from the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley and the Image Text Ithaca Symposium. Analicia holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Houston and works at The Black Sheep Agency. She serves as an Adroit Journal Summer Mentor, a committee member of the Poison Pen Reading Series, and on the City of Houston’s Millennial Advisory Board.

José Olivarez is the son of Mexican immigrants. His debut book of poems, Citizen Illegal, was a finalist for the PEN/ Jean Stein Award and a winner of the 2018 Chicago Review of Books Poetry Prize. It was named a top book of 2018 by The Adroit Journal, NPR, and the New York Public Library. Along with Felicia Chavez and Willie Perdomo, he is the co-editor of the anthology, The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNEXT. In 2018, he was awarded the first annual Author and Artist in Justice Award from the Phillips Brooks House Association and named a Debut Poet of 2018 by Poets & Writers. In 2019, he was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Paris Review, and elsewhere.