Russell Banks shows he's one of America's leading writers in more ways than one
Widely acknowledged as one of America's most critically acclaimed and bestelling authors, Russell Banks, whose first non-fiction book, Dreaming Up America, was recently released in paperback (Seven Stories Press; February, 2010), appeared at the 2008 Miami Book Fair International to promote Cities of Refuge North America, an organization of safe houses for oppressed writers, which he co-founded in 2003, along with Salman Rushdie and Nigerian Nobel Prize-winning poet and playwright Wole Soyinka. Having outlined the history of the organization, Banks went on to map the Cities Of Refuge, headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, a network of some twenty cities, joined in 2009 by Miami and the Miami Dade College just months after Banks' presentation. Banks next introduced politcally oppressed performance poet Irakli Kakabadze from the Republic of Georgia, who received asylum in Ithaca, New York. Expressing his appreciation for the warm people and weather of Miami, Kakabadze offered a sample of what he called his'Polyphonic Blues' genre, a poem called Condominium Of Free Will, and followed with lyrics to Postindustrial Boys. After an introduction by Banks, Swaziland poet Sarah Mkhonza reflected on the cultural clash of AIDS and monarchical rule in Swaziland before engaging the audience in a tribal poetry performance. Having also found asylum in Ithaca, New York,Mkhonza then detailed the back story of her own political persecution in Swaziland and closed with a reading of her poem This Country Spills Death published in her collection titled Weeding the Flowerbeds (Xlibris; April, 2009). Banks concluded the author presentations with an introduction of Nobel Laureate and Executive Director of the Cities of Refuge North America program, Derek Walcott, who read his poem called Spanish Series and a poem commissioned by England's Sunday Times in honor of the historic 2008 election of President Barack Obama called Forty Acres, published in his new volume of poems called White Egrets (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; March, 2010), which many speculate could be the 80-year old Caribbean artist's last poems.
Book and Author Headlines
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