University of Pittsburgh
February 1, 2009

University of Pittsburgh Hosts Microconference on African American Literature Feb. 6

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-As part of the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writer's Series 2008-09 season, the University of Pittsburgh will cohost the Microconference on African American Literature, beginning at noon Feb. 6, Room 501 Cathedral of Learning, 4200 Fifth Ave., Oakland. The day's events will include such notable literary figures as Arnold Rampersad, Carl Phillips, G.E. Patterson, and Mendi Obadike.

The conference will include a lecture on African American literature by Rampersad, a biographer, literary critic, and a professor emeritus at Stanford University. He is the author of "Ralph Ellison" (Knopf, 2007), "Jackie Robinson: A Biography" (Knopf, 1997), "Days of Grace: A Memoir" (Knopf, 1993), and "The Life of Langston Hughes" (Oxford University Press, 2 vols., 1986, 1988).

Rampersad was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1986 for "The Life of Langston Hughes". From 1991 to 1996, he held a highly coveted MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, commonly referred to as a "Genius Grant." He also is a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

A panel discussion on contemporary African American poetry will convene at 2 p.m., featuring Rampersad; Philips, a poet and professor of English and African and Afro-American studies at Washington University at St. Louis; Patterson, a poet and freelance writer and editor; and Obadike, a poet and interdisciplinary artist.

Phillips is the author of "Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems 1986-2006" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007), "Riding Westward"(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006), and "The Rest of Love" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004). His poems also have been published in such literary journals as the "Yale Review," "Atlantic Monthly," and the "Paris Review."

Among Phillips' awards and honors are the 2006 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, an award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Pushcart Prize, the Academy of American Poets Prize, induction into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Library of Congress.

Patterson is the author of the poetry collection To and From (Ahsahta Press, 2008) and the book Tug (Graywolf Press, 1999), which won the Minnesota Book Award. His work has appeared in such publications as "Bum Rush the Page," "Poetry 180," "American Letters and Commentary," "Fence," "Five Fingers Review," "Seneca Review," "Open City," and "XcP: Cross Cultural Politics".

Patterson's awards include fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Cave Canem, the Djerassis Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and the Minnesota State Arts Board.

Obadike is the author of the poetry collection "Armor and Flesh" (Lotus Press, 2004), which won the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award. Her work also has appeared in such publications as the "Art Journal," "Artthrob, Meridians," "Black Arts Quarterly," "El Pais," and "Tema Celeste".

The conference will conclude with a poetry reading by Philips, Patterson, and Obadike at 7 p.m. in Carnegie Mellon University's Giant Eagle Auditorium, Baker Hall, 4825 Frew St., Oakland.

The 2008-09 Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series season is cosponsored by Pitt's Department of English, University Center for International Studies, Asian Studies Center, China Council Confucious Institute, Cultural Studies Program, Women's Studies Program, and Book Center and by the Carnegie Mellon University Creative Writing Program.

All events in the Writers Series are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Jeff Oaks at, or visit