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Words at the Center

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

An array of much-published and award-winning poets from throughout North America will descend on The Center to take part in the four-day festival of readings, interviews, music and dance.

The Burchfield Penney Art Center in partnership with Just Buffalo Literary Center, University at Buffalo and SUNY Buffalo State will present WORDS, a celebration of the written word April 9– 13, 2016. The launch event, the fourth in The Center’s quarterly series, will welcome headliners Ishmael Reed, Edward Sanders and Steve McCaffery joined by a plethora of leading, local and national writers and performance artists including Michael Basinski, Michael Colquhoun, Tennessee Reed and Annette Taylor, Jon Lehrer and Jeff Simon. WORDS also marks National Poetry Month, inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, and held every April to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture.

“Ishmael Reed, Ed Sanders and Steve McCaffery are a part of the Buffalo leadership legacy in literature. Through their genius, each in their way project the complexity of culture in our time,” said Anthony Bannon, Ph.D., Burchfield Penney executive director. “Through their work they explore core values and how do we stand in the world. To have these masters—center stage under one roof in our house—is staggering. And WORDS will celebrate and launch their contributions.”

The catalyst for WORDS was the Burchfield Penney anthology Mortal and immortals which represents 35 years of our commitment to poetics, or the theory of poetry. “In addition to the readings, this is our first attempt at having a conversation with these masters,” said Don Metz, Burchfield Penney Associate Director. “Words will feature the best of local, national, and international poets.”

The festival will include more than 50 live and taped local readings and also spill over into the worlds of music and dance. Some highlights include:Readings and candid conversations with Ishmael Reed, Edward Sannders and Steve McCaffery· Readings and performances by Judith Goldman, Tennessee Reed, Michael Basinski, Annette Taylor and Michael Colquhoun· Words in the Front Yard – guests invited from the community read from Charles E. Burchfield’s journals accompanied by sounds captured from locations where the legendary painter created some of his most enlightened work. These readings will be programmed during daylight hours in The Center’s outdoor Front Yard space along with some of Western New York’s most accomplished poets reading their own poetry.· Performance by pianist Douglas “Trigger” Gaston, a prolific composer and performer who has been featured nationally and internationally· Dance curated by Jon Lehrer who invited 3 dancer / choreographers to create new works inspired by a poem by Edward Sanders, Poem From Jail. The poem will be read be three different readers including Sanders, Michael Basinski and Annette Taylor. The readers will work with the choreographers in the interpretation of the poems. Dancers include Melanie Aceto, Leah Fiore and Nancy Hughes· Mortals and Immortals: Members of the Burchfield Penney Poetry Committee will read selected poems from Mortals and Immortals, an anthology celebrating the 35th anniversary of Poets and Writers at the Burchfield Penney.

WORDS Program Schedule is available at

About Ishmael Reed
One of America’s most significant literary figures, Ishmael Reed has published more than 20 books of poetry, prose, essays, and plays, as well as penned hundreds of lyrics for musicians ranging from Taj Mahal to Macy Gray. His work is known for its satirical, ironic take on race and literary tradition, as well as its innovative, post-modern technique. Just Buffalo Literary Center honored Ishmael Reed, one of the most important living writers of the 20th century, with the 2014 Literary Legacy Award.

Buffalo News Arts and Books Critic Jeff Simon described Reed’s work: “As a novelist, satirist, poet, essayist, jazz musician, playwright, songwriter, anthologist, editor, publisher and all around enlightened troublemaker, Ishmael Reed has probably done more to unclog the hypocrisies and stupidities of American culture than any other writer of his generation.”

Reed was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1938, but grew up in the working class neighborhoods of Buffalo, New York. He attended the University at Buffalo, but never matriculated; he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University in 1995. He also received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1998. He taught at the University of California-Berkeley for more than 30 years, and has held positions at California College of

Art, San Jose State University, Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, and the University of the Antilles in Martinique. His many awards and honors include fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He has won the John Oliver Killens Lifetime Achievement Award, the Barbary Coast Award, the 2008 Blues Songwriter of the Year Award, the Phillis Wheatley Award, the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Award, the Langston Hughes Medal, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Poetry Association, among many, many others. Reed alsofounded the Before Columbus Foundation, an organization devoted to promoting original, innovative, and neglected writing from the Americas.

About Steve McCaffery
Poet Steve McCaffery was born in Sheffield, England, and earned a BA in English and philosophy from Hull University (England), an MA from York University (Toronto), and a PhD from the program in poetics, English, and comparative literature at SUNY Buffalo.

A critic, poet, and professor, McCaffery has been part of the Canadian avant-garde poetry scene in the 1970s, his creative work marked an innovation which abandoned conventionally narrative forms.

His oeuvre includes sound poetry (as part of the collaborative group the Four Horsemen with poets Rafael Barreto-Rivera, Paul Dutton, and bpNichol) and concrete poetry. His visual poetry is in permanent collections at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Paul Getty Research Institute in Malibu, the

International Concrete Poetry Archive in Oxford, England, and the New York Public Library in New York City.

McCaffery’s poetry publications include a number of chapbooks and full-length collections, among them Modern Reading: Poems 1969–1990 (1991), Seven Pages Missing: Selected Texts Volume One (2001) and Volume Two (2002), and Verse and Worse: Selected and New Poems of Steve McCaffery 1989–2009 (2010). He has twice received the Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative North American Poetry.

McCaffrey and bpNichol edited Sound Poetry: A Catalogue (1978) and Rational Geomancy: The Kids of the Book-Machine: The Collected Research Reports of the Toronto Research Group 1973-1982 (1992), a manifesto and sampling of Canadian arts and writing. His published scholarly works include Imagining

Language with Jed Rasula (1998), North of Intention: Critical Writings 1973–1986 (1986), and Prior to Meaning: The Protosemantic and Poetics (2001).

McCaffery is a professor in the Poetics Program at the University at Buffalo.

About Ed Sanders
Poet and activist Ed Sanders grew up in Blue Springs, Missouri. He was educated at the University of Missouri and New York University and earned a BA in ancient Greek. After college Sanders remained in New York City, where he opened the Peace Eye Bookstore and started Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts. Influenced by the work of Dylan Thomas, Ezra Pound, and Allen Ginsberg, Sanders helped bridge the concerns of Beat poetry and the countercultural movement of the 1960s.

Sanders is the author of more than a dozen collections of poetry, including Poem from Jail (1963), the American Book Award winner Thirsting for Peace in a Raging Century: Selected Poems 1961–1985 (1987), and Poems for New Orleans (2008). The author of the manifesto Investigative Poetry (1976), Sanders writes research-driven, investigative poetry and has composed several biographies in verse, including Chekhov (1995) and The Poetry and Life of Allen Ginsberg (2000). In 1998 Sanders began work

on America, A History in Verse, a long poem projected to include nine volumes and thousands of pages.
In an interview with Poetry Daily, Sanders discussed his approach to investigative poetry: “Nonfiction is a kind of map of fragments of information sequenced together, like an elegant baklava with layers of meaning,” he said. “You have to think of different arrays of sequencing information […] You have to make an apt choice, or an artistic choice, or an aesthetic choice about what you put in—and what you leave out. It’s an art form when to say no. Especially in investigative poetry, it’s a mission.”

Sanders has written many books of prose, including the nonfiction book The Family (1971), which examines the Charles Manson murders; the fiction Tales of Beatnik Glory (1975); and Fug You: An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the Fuck You Press, the Fugs, and Counterculture in the Lower East Side (2011). For eight years he published a biweekly newspaper, the Woodstock Journal, and maintains a weekly cable TV program.

Sanders’s honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is a founding member of the subversive, satirical folk-rock music group The Fugs.

Sanders lives in Woodstock, New York.