Chatham University

Chatham News

Category Archives: Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

Author Natalie Diaz to Read at Chatham University for Words Without Walls Reading Series

PITTSBURGH:   Poet Natalie Diaz will read on Thursday September 17, 2015 at 8:00 pm in the Welker Room at Chatham University as part of the Words Without Walls Reading Series.   This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pittsburgh Foundation.

The reading is free and open to the public. A book signing and reception will follow the reading.

Natalie Diaz
Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz was born and raised in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California, on the banks of the Colorado River.  She is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe.  After playing professional basketball for four years in Europe and Asia, Diaz returned to the states to complete her MFA at Old Dominion University. Her first poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, was published by Copper Canyon Press. She is a 2012 Lannan Literary Fellow and a 2012 Native Arts Council Foundation Artist Fellow. In 2014, she was awarded a Bread Loaf Fellowship, as well as the Holmes National Poetry Prize from Princeton University, and a US Artists Ford Fellowship. Diaz teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts Low Residency MFA program and lives in Mohave Valley, Arizona, where she directs the Fort Mojave Language Recovery Program, working with the last remaining Mojave speakers at Fort Mojave to teach and revitalize the Mojave language.

Praise for When My Brother Was An Aztec:

“In her debut, Diaz portrays experiences rooted in Native American life with personal and mythic power. The poems are narrative and surreal—bodies are wracked by addiction and diabetes, but sometimes “a gunnysack full of tigers wrestles in our chests.” – Publishers Weekly

“Unapologetically political and emotionally difficult, this collection is certainly not for those seeking “easy” poetry that will stroke them to sleep with purple mountain ranges, a lover’s midnight whisper and a spoonful of nostalgia. It is, however, for the reader who allows her consciousness to be challenged and their spine chilled by the drawing voice and fresh language of excellent narrative and surreal poetry.” – Kasey Erin, The Adirondack Review



Chatham’s Creative Writing Program Receives National Endowment for the Arts Grant

PITTSBURGH: The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has a awarded a grant to support the Make Mine Words Reading Series, part of the Words Without Walls program, a creative partnership between the Chatham MFA Creative Writing Program, Allegheny County Jail, State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh, and Sojourner House, a residential drug and alcohol treatment facility for mothers and their children.

The NEA grant will allow Chatham to host three nationally recognized authors featured in the anthology Words without Walls:  Writers on Addiction, Violence, and Incarceration for public readings and book signings to the Pittsburgh community.   Sheryl St. Germain, director of Chatham’s MFA in Creative Writing program and co-founder of the Words Without Walls program, leads the Make Mine Words series. For a full listing of speakers and other events, please visit

Continue reading

John Amen to read April 15 at Chatham University as part of the Words Without Walls Reading Series

PITTSBURGH:  John Amen will read on Wednesday, April 15, 2015, at 5:00 pm in the Mellon Living Room, Chatham University. A book signing and reception will follow the reading, which is free and open to the public.

John Amen is the author of four collections of poetry: Christening the Dancer (Uccelli Press, 2003), More of Me Disappears (Cross-Cultural Communications, 2005), At the Threshold of Alchemy (Presa, 2009), and strange theater (New York Quarterly Books, 2015). The New Arcana—a multi-genre collaborative work co-written with Daniel Y. Harris—was released by New York Quarterly Books in October 2012.  His work has appeared in journals nationally and internationally and been translated into Spanish, French, Hungarian, Korean, and Hebrew. In addition, he has released two folk/folk rock CDs: All I’ll Never Need and Ridiculous Empire. He is also an artist, working primarily with acrylics on canvas. Further information is available on his website: John travels widely giving readings, doing musical performances, and conducting workshops. He founded and continues to edit The Pedestal Magazine (

Praise for strange theater :

“John Amen’s incredible release, strange theater, is a perceptive, insightful commentary on the mystery hidden within the ordinary…. This collection is exquisite, a book to be savored and discussed and treasured.”   —Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Funding for the Words Without Walls reading series provided by A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation and Chatham University.


Words Without Walls Book Launch at Chatham University on Friday, March 27th

PITTSBURGH: Chatham University will host a book launch on Friday March 27, 2015 at 7:00 pm in Chatham’s Mellon Board Room to celebrate the release of Words Without Walls: Writers on Addiction, Violence, and Incarceration published by Trinity University Press. Featured readers will be Jennifer Ashburn, Eric Boyd, Toi Derricotte, Heather McNaugher, Sarah Shotland, Sheryl St. Germain, and Christine Stroud. A book signing and reception will follow the reading. The reading is free and open to the public.

About the Anthology and Words Without Walls
Words without Walls is an anthology of more than seventy-five poems, essays, stories, and scripts by contemporary writers that provide models for successful writing, offering voices and styles that will inspire students in alternative spaces on their own creative exploration. Created by the founders of the award-winning Words Without Walls program, the anthology strives to challenge readers to reach beyond their own circumstances and begin to write from the heart. Each selection expresses immediacy—writing that captures the imagination and conveys intimacy on the page—revealing the power of words to cut to the quick and unfold the truth. Many of the pieces are brief, allowing for reading and discussion in the classroom, and provide a wide range of content and genre, touching on themes common to communities in need: addiction and alcoholism, family, love and sex, pain and hope, prison, recovery, and violence. More information at Trinity University Press.

Continue reading

Allison Joseph to Read March 4 at Chatham University for Words Without Walls Reading Series

PITTSBURGH:   Allison Joseph will read on Wednesday March 4, 2015 at 8:00 p.m. in the Mellon Living Room, Chatham University.  A book signing and reception will follow the reading, which is free and open to the public.

Allison Joseph was born in London, England in 1967 to parents of Caribbean heritage. She grew up in Toronto, Canada and the Bronx, New York.  She is a graduate of Kenyon College and the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Indiana University.  She has taught since 1994 at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, where she helped to found Crab Orchard Review, a journal of literary works, and the Young Writers Workshop, a coed residential summer program for teen writers. She is also the moderator of the Creative Writers Opportunities List, a list-serve that provides publication and submission information to writers of poetry, fiction , and nonfiction. In 2012, she was awarded the George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.

Praise for My Father’s Kites: Poems by Allison Joseph:

“Superbly executed, part family history and part homage, Allison Joseph strings the frail human voices across the forceful lines of her verse to summon her absent father back from the dead.” — Maura Stanton

Funding for the Words Without Walls reading series provided by A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation and Chatham University.


Autumn House Book Launch Friday, March 6 at Chatham University

PITTSBURGH:  Please join Autumn House Press at Chatham University’s Mellon Board Room on Friday March 6, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. to celebrate the release of The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry. The third edition of this anthology is a comprehensive selection featuring 106 important American poets. Hear the following poets read their pieces from the anthology: Jan Beatty, Joy Katz, Heather McNaugher, Ed Ochester, Sheryl St. Germain, Judith Vollmer, Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, and Michael Wurster. A book signing and reception will follow the reading. The reading is free and open to the public.

About the readers:

Jan Beatty’s most recent collection of poems is The Switching/Yard (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013). Her previous books include Red Sugar, Boneshaker and Mad River, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize. She is director of creative writing at Carlow University, where she teaches the Madwomen in the Attic workshops and in the MFA program. Beatty also co-hosts and produces “Prosody,” a public radio show on which she interviews prominent writers. She is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and likes muscle cars.

Joy Katz‘s latest collection is All You Do Is Perceive, a Four Way Books Stalecher Selection and a National Poetry Series finalist. Her other books are Fabulae (winner of the Crab Orchard award) and The Garden Room (winner of Tupelo Press’s Snowbound Series prize). Her poems and essays appear in American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, Fence, Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, the Poetry Foundation, and other print and web journals and are anthologized in three volumes of The Best American Poetry. Honors for her work include an NEA Fellowship, a Stegner fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, and the Nadya Aisenberg fellowship at The MacDowell Colony. She is currently at work on Frayed, a book about racial identity and voice, for which she received a 2013 Pittsburgh Foundation individual artist grant. She teaches poetry at Chatham and Carlow universitites and serves at editor-at-large for Pleiades.

Heather McNaugher is the author of System of Hideouts and two poetry chapbooks, Panic & Joy and Double Life. She teaches poetry, nonfiction and literature at Chatham University, where she is poetry editor of The Fourth River. Her nonfiction has appeared in a recent issue of Fourth Genre.

Ed Ochester is the editor of the Pitt Poetry Series and is a member of the core faculty of the Bennington MFA Writing Seminars. He has published seven books of poems, as well as eight limited editions, and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the George Garrett Award from the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, and the “artist of the year” award from the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Recent poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, Agni, Boulevard, Nerve Cowboy, Great River Review, Gettysburg Review and other magazines. Poems of his were selected for Best American Poems 2007 and 2013.

Sheryl St. Germain’s work has received several awards, including two NEA Fellowships, an NEH Fellowship, the Dobie-Paisano Fellowship, the Ki Davis Award from the Aspen Writers Foundation, and the William Faulkner Award for the personal essay. Her poetry books include Making Bread at Midnight, How Heavy the Breath of God, The Journals of Scheherazade, and Let it Be a Dark Roux: New and Selected Poems. She has written two memoirs, Swamp Songs: the Making of an Unruly Woman, and Navigating Disaster: Sixteen Essays of Love and a Poem of Despair. She co-edited, with Margaret Whitford, Between Song and Story: Essays for the Twenty-First Century, and with Sarah Shotland Words Without Walls: Writers on Violence, Addiction and Incarceration.

Judith Vollmer is the author of five books of poetry, including, most recently, The Water Books (Autumn House Press 2012). Her other collections, Reactor, The Door Open to the Fire, Black Butterfly, and Level Green, have been awarded the Brittingham, the Cleveland State, and the Center for Book Arts (limited edition) publication prizes. She also is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and finalist honors for the Paterson Poetry Prize. Vollmer lives in Pittsburgh and teaches at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and the Drew University MFA Program in Poetry & Poetry in Translation.

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley is a survivor of the Liberian Civil War that ravaged the country from 1989-2003. Besides her most recent book, Where the Road Turns, she is the author of three previous books of poetry, The River is Rising (published by Autumn House Press), Becoming Ebony and Before the Palm Could Bloom: Poems of Africa. Currently at work on her memoir of the Liberian Civil War, Patricia teaches English, Creative Writing, and African Literature at Penn State University, Altoona. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family.

Michael Wurster was born Moline, Illinois and currently resides in Pittsburgh with Hawthorne, his Siamese cat. He is a founding member of Pittsburgh Poetry Exchange and taught at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts for 17 years. His poetry collections are The Cruelty of the Desert, The Snake Charmer’s Daughter, and The British Detective.


Judith Tannenbaum to Read at Chatham University for Words Without Walls Reading Series

PITTSBURGH:  Judith Tannenbaum will read on Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 8:00 pm in the Welker Room on the campus of Chatham University.  The reading is part of the Words Without Walls reading series. It is free, open to the public, and a book signing and reception will follow the reading.

Judith Tannenbaum has taught poetry in a wide variety of settings from primary school classrooms to maximum security prisons. She taught at San Quentin for four years in the 1980s and subsequently created Arts in Corrections’ newsletter Memo: Arts and their Manual for Artists Working in Prison. This work led to two of her books — Disguised as a Poem: My Years Teaching Poetry at San Quentin and a two person memoir, written with San Quentin student Spoon Jackson, By Heart: Poetry, Prison, and Two Lives.
Continue reading