Fresh from Cuba, the celebrated poet and public intellectual.
Presented by Al Young-California Poet Laureate emeritus, novelist, essayist & Kathleen Weaver – poet, biographer, translator.
Benefit for KPFA + La Peña
Nancy Morejón is the best known and most widely translated woman poet of postrevolutionary Cuba. Born in 1944 in Havana to a militant dock worker and a tradeunionist seamstress, Morejón graduated from Havana University. She was Cuba’s first black woman poet to be internationally acclaimed as a poet. Her distinctive poetry is shaped by an Afro-Cuban sensibility and an eloquent concern for Cuban nationhood, cultural fusion, and the rights of women. She has published more than twenty volumes of poetry, as well as critical works and translations from French and English. Her works in English translation include Looking Within/Mirar Adentro, Selected Poems 1954-2000, Where the Island Sleeps Like a Wing, translated by U.S. poet Kathleen Weaver, and With Eyes and Soul/Images of Cuba with photographs by Milton Rogovin. For many years, Morejón served on the editorial staff of UNEAC (Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). Currently she is president of the Cuban Writers’ Union, UNEAC, and an advisor at Casa de las Américas in Havana.
Morejón has won Cuba’s prestigious National Literary Award, the National Prize for Poetry, and the National Award in Criticism – as well as many international awards, including the Latin American Studies Association Cuba Prize. Thoroughly bilingual, she has read and lectured at universities in the U.S. She served as writer in residence at Wellesley College and conducted a two-day symposium on her work at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Howard University Press has published a collection of critical texts on her work: Singular Like a Bird: The Art of Nancy Morejón.
Al Young is a distinguished writer, poet, fiction writer, anthologist, and educator. His many honors include Poet Laureate of California, the PEN-Library of Congress Award for Short Fiction, the PEN-USA Award for Non-Fiction, two American Book Awards, and the Richard Wright Award for Excellence in Literature. His writings have been translated into many languages, including Russian, and Urdu. His works in fiction include Seduction by Light and Sitting Pretty; in poetry, Something About the Blues, and Coastal Nights and Inland Afternoons: Poems 2001-2006.
In the 1970’s Young wrote film scripts for producer Joseph Strick, Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, and Richard Pryor. In the 1980’s and 90’s, as a cultural ambassador for the United States Information Agency, he traveled throughout South Asia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian West Bank. In 2001 he traveled to the Persian Gulf to lecture on American and African American literature and culture in Kuwait and in Bahrain for the U.S. Department of State. Subsequent lecture tours have taken him to Southern Italy in 2004, and back to India in 2005. Blending story, recitation and song, Young often performs live with musicians. In 2005, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him Poet Laureate of California.
Kathleen Weaver is a poet, author of Peruvian Rebel, The Life and Work of Magda Portal, co-editor of The Penguin Book of Womens’ Poetry and The Other Voice, translator of Nancy Morejón, Julio Cortázar, Omar Cabezas and many others.