Whittier College Writers Festival

March 29 - April 9, 2016



Stan Ridgway, Willis Barnstone,
Andrei Codrescu, Stanley Moss,
Patricia Smith and more!


All Writers Festival Events Are Open To The Community!


Stan Ridgway

Willis Barnstone

Andrei Codrescu


Stanley Moss


Patricia Smith



Tuesday, March 29th - Wardman Library
4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Craft Talk with Patricia Smith

7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Poetry Reading with Patricia Smith and a slate of spoken-word poets, including Saeed Jones, Anis Mojgani, Angel Nafis, Shira Ehrichman & Sam Sax


Thursday, April 7th - Villalobos Hall
4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Craft Talk with Willis Barnstone, Andrei Codrescu and Stanley Moss

7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. Poetry Reading with Willis Barnstone, Andrei Codrescu and Stanley Moss
Saturday, April 9th - Shannon Center
5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

 Craft Talk with Stan Ridgway

7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

An Evening with Stan Ridgway


Willis Barnstone, born in 1927 in Lewiston, Maine, and educated at Bowdoin, the Sorbonne, SOAS, Columbia and Yale, taught in Greece at the end of the civil war (1949-51), was in Haiti in 1960 during the deadly rule of Papa Doc and in Buenos Aires during the Dirty War (1975-1976). He was in China during the Cultural Revolution in 1972. A Fulbright Professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University (1984-1985). Former O’Connor Professor of Greek at Colgate University (1973), he is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature and Spanish at Indiana University. He lives in Oakland, California.

A Guggenheim fellow, he has received the NEA, NEH, ACLS, Auden Award of NY Council on the Arts, Midland Authors Award, four Book of the Month selections, four Pulitzer nominations, six awards from Poetry Society of America, including the Emily Dickinson Award. In 2015 he received the Fred Cody Life Achievement Award. His work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, Harper’s, New York Review of Books, Paris Review, Poetry, New Yorker, Times Literary Supplement.

Recent books are Life Watch (BOA), Poetics of Translation (Yale), Ancient Greek Lyrics (Indiana), Restored New Testament (Norton), The Gnostic Bible (Shambhala), The Other Bible (Harper), Stickball on 88th Street (Red Hen Press), Café de l’Aube à Paris / Dawn Café in Paris (Sheep Meadow Press), ABC of Translation: Poems & Drawings (Black Widow), Borges at 80, with Photographs (New Directions), With Borges on an Ordinary Evening in Buenos Aires (Illinois), Moonbook & Sunbook (Tupelo Books), Mexico in My Heart (Carcanet, Manchester).


Andrei Codrescu, born in Sibiu, Transylvania, Romania, emigrated to the U.S in 1966. His first poetry book, License to Carry a Gun, won the 1970 Big Table Poetry award. He founded Exquisite Corpse: a Journal of Books & Ideas (corpse.org) in 1983, taught literature and poetry at Johns Hopkins University, University of Baltimore, and Louisiana State University where he was MacCurdy Distinguished Professor of English. He's been a regular commentator on NPR's All Things Considered since 1983, and received a Peabody Award for writing and starring in the film Road Scholar. In 1989 he returned to his native Romania to cover the fall of the Ceausescu regime for NPR and ABC News, and wrote The Hole in the Flag: an Exile's Story of Return and Revolution. He is the author of books of poetry, novels, essays; the most recent are So Recently Rent a World : New and Selected Poems (Coffee House, 2012), Bibliodeath: my Archives (with Life in Footnotes) (Antibookclub, 2012), whatever gets you through the night: a story of sheherezade and the arabian entertainments (Princeton University Press, 2011), The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess, (Princeton University Press, 2009), and The Poetry Lesson (Princeton University Press, 2010).


The poet Stanley Moss was born in NYC in 1925. His recent books are It’s About Time and God Breaketh Not All Men’s Hearts Alike. Moss is editor-publisher of Sheep Meadow Press. His work has been translated into German by Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Chinese by Fu Hao, and Spanish by Valerie Mejer, etc. He makes his living as an Old Masters art dealer. He’s a donkey and dog nut.


Stan Ridgway is a true original. One of the most unique and gifted singer/songwriters in American music, from his early days with L.A.’s Wall Of Voodoo, to his even more intriguing solo career, Stan Ridgway continues to create an impressive body of work.

It's been a long and influential road for the songwriter/guitarist and original Wall Of Voodoo vocalist. His darkly humorous, and richly cinematic musical tales of the ironies inside the American Dream have been compared to other classic songwriting iconoclasts like Randy Newman, Tom Waits, Johnny Cash and even hard boiled mystery writers like Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson, as well as twisted film makers like David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino. The San Francisco Chronicle said, "He conjures "Burroughs, Bukowski and Brecht," while LA Weekly has called him "the Nathaniel West of rock."
Pulling numbers from his own revolutionary past and moving into his own honed, sardonic style of present, Ridgway will be accompanied at the shows by Pietra Wexstun on keyboards, electronics and vocals; Rick King on guitar, bass and vocals. Wexstun and Ridgway have lived and worked in tandem for more than 30 years; her keyboard and vocal sounds are perfectly in tune with his not-so-typical stories of proverbial American tragedy and triumph.

A mad scientist of sound and vision, Ridgway possesses a style unparalleled, at least in our known universe. Making his musical pictures for 30 years now, the singer-songwriter and guitarist has emerged as a singular voice in contemporary song. "It's a hybrid of all the music I've loved and admired," he says. "There are no boundaries on art and no rules to follow in music. A song is really just a strong point of view."
Ridgway works in his own unique form of aural and sonic tradition, chronicling all that lies beneath the safe and sane surface. He craftily sets his dark materials to off-kilter and eerie melodies that echo the uneasy action of a cast of characters on the brink. His tales often take place in the microcosmic miasma of L.A. and its outer desert, where his creations try to wrest meaning from the beautiful catastrophe of their lives. The combination makes for a stunning stew of universal provocations.
"Mystery and irony are attractive to me but that said, I have no problem with entertainment," he says. "Orson Welles was a magician as well as a Shakespearean actor. There's a certain brilliance to that."
Ridgway has soaked himself in European soundtrack music, American folk tradition, primitive rock 'n' roll, blues, psychedelia, free jazz and all that is avant-garde. All of it has seeped into his musical vocabulary. "Life is absurd. But that doesn't mean it has to be meaningless," he says. "Froan early age music centered me in a chaotic world that didn't make sense."
Ridgway's uncanny ability for brushing Old World charm against contemporary disturbances and oddities just might define the disjointed landscape of 21st century life. "I've always liked tall tales, urban myths and ghost stories," he says. "I like a strong protagonist, as well as a story that unfolds with drama, color and detail. A song should take you away for awhile and into another world." Sounds like the definition of a Stan Ridgway song…
Raised in L.A., Ridgway began his love affair with Southwestern gothic 30 years ago as front man and co-founder of vanguard electro-art punks Wall of Voodoo, who he originally formed with the intention of scoring low-budget horror films. Ridgway sang on the band's debut EP and first two albums, Dark Continent and Call of the West (which included the accidental MTV hit "Mexican Radio"). "I sometimes use songs as a way to figure out the puzzle of how things fit or don't. When the balance is right, what the listener brings to it is just as important as what I bring to it," he says.
"I've always thought of songs like films in the mind really, except I'm the actor and the director, the lighting and prop person and DP too. When it's working, you should be able to see the song as well as hear it."
Ridgway is a rare performer and songmaker whose enduring sketches nail the human condition down cold while his characterizations of life remain absolutely fresh and alive. The primal urges that drive his creations--whether they're searching for a home in "Underneath the Big Green Tree," or acknowledging our collective heritage in his electronic reworking of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire"-- see Ridgway finding humanity in all stripes, as he celebrates the circus of our lives.

Ridgway's flair for concise character portraits was first noted by uber critic Greil Marcus, who called The Big Heat "probably the most compelling portrait of American social life to appear on a rock 'n' roll record since Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska." Author Mikal Gilmore said it was "the best L.A.-founded record of that year." Ridgway followed with the existential-humanist Mosquitoes (featuring the anthemic "Mission in Life," and the Euro-hit, "Calling Out to Carol"). Partyball (1991) explored the outer-limits of Ridgway's unique world, while 2002's Black Diamond was a more Spartan and personal statement on love and loss.
"At the end of the day I really consider myself just an inventor, or like a link in a chain to a tradition of song and art," the artist says. Music and songs and recording are an obsession for me — sound and art. It's all in there, the ideas and things that influenced me. To see it and tell it your own way is the challenge. That's the last true, honest place to be. It might even be the new frontier right now."

Patricia Smith is the author of seven books of poetry, including Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the 2014 Rebekah Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress, the 2013 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets and the Phillis Wheatley Award; Savannah was also a finalist for both the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America and the Balcones Prize. Patricia also authored Blood Dazzler, a finalist for the National Book Award, and Teahouse of the Almighty, a National Poetry Series selection.

Her most recent book is Gotta Go Gotta Flow, a collaboration with the late Chicago photographer Michael Abramson. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The New York Times, TriQuarterly, Tin House, The Washington Post, and in both Best American Poetry and Best American Essays. Her contribution to the crime fiction anthology Staten Island Noir, which she edited, won the Robert L. Fish Award from the Mystery Writers of America for the best debut story of the year and was chosen for Best American Mystery Stories.  She is a 2014 Guggenheim fellow,  a 2012 fellow at both MacDowell and Yaddo, a two-time Pushcart Prize winner, recipient of a Lannan fellowship and a four-time individual champion of the National Poetry Slam, the most successful poet in the competition’s history. Her next poetry collection, Incendiary Art, will be released in February 2017; she is also working a volume combining poetic monologues with 19th-century photos of African-Americans, and a collaborative novel with her husband Bruce DeSilva, the Edgar-Award winning author of the Liam Mulligan crime novels. Patricia is a professor at the College of Staten Island and an instructor in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College.



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