Poets’ Dinner in Iowa City: Auntie Mary is cooking!

One of the better side benefits from dedicated blogging is that you make friends. Sometimes, very good friends. If you aren’t a pro-blogger, you meet others similarly involved in this labor of love. I’ve been lucky in the friends Riehlife has attracted to our village.

Two such friends, as yet unseen, are poet Stephen Kuusisto (see his poem above), and poet Marvin Bell.

Stephen came into my life last July when he spontaneously sent me the poem in tribute to Riehlife “Basho and the Crickets” published above.

Marvin came into my life this January when he allowed me to fun his inauguration poem, “Yes We Can”…which many readers wrote to say they liked even better than the official inauguration poem.

How fun it will be to meet them and their wives in person at our poets dinner. Alan and Mary Blay-Brody are hosting us in Iowa City where Stephen, Marvin, and the Brody’s live. I’m visiting for a long weekend, enjoying all manner of literary events such as readings and another dinner from Mary’s kitchen for their writing class.

Mary is originally from Ghana and has traveled all around the world for 25 years as part of Alan’s career with UNICEF. I met Alan and Mary in Ghana in the early 1970s and stayed there in 1977 just as I was leaving Africa. They nursed me during my bout of Malaria. I saw them again in Iowa City, Iowa and Decatur, Illinois in the late 1970s after my return. I didn’t meet up with Alan again until last August in Botswana. Mary and Alan came to visit Pop and me during our annual cider-making reunion last fall…then bopped over to St. Louis before heading home.

Mary is originally from the Ghanaian coast and merged a little something with her cuisine from every country they visited during their 25-year tour. When Mary cooks, your taste buds jolt to attention and listen!

I’ve run several posts from Alan previously.
1) Charlie Wilson’s War” reviewed by Alan Brody, UN front-line 1993 Afghanistan witness for the end-game.

2) Virginia Quarterly Review online publishes Alan Brody’s story and commentary “Revisiting Afghanistan: A Conversation with Najibullah”

3) Clinton-Obama Spat provokes “1789 contribution campaign,” Alan Brody makes call to action

Alan also writes an op-ed for a newspaper in Iowa City. See Alan on Video speaking to the Foreign Relations Council here.
The Iowa Digital Library says of Alan Brody: Alan Brody retired from the UN in September, 2006, and is presently a writer living in Iowa City, Iowa. Apart from regular op.ed. publications in newspapers in Swaziland, he has previously published an op.ed. in the New York Times (“In One Country, AIDS on the Rampage, August 2006). His is a graduate from Yale University (AB English 1968), and has a PhD in Journalism and Mass Communication (Development support communication) from the University of Iowa (1984). He served for nearly eight years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana during the period 1968-78, and joined UNICEF in 1984 (working in Nigeria and Turkey before his assignment in March 1993 to Afghanistan). His UNICEF assignments after Afghanistan were in China (1995-99) and Swaziland (2000-06).

Verse Daily says: Stephen Kuusisto is the author of Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening and the acclaimed memoir Planet of the Blind, a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”. He has also published Only Bread, Only Light, a collection of poems from Copper Canyon Press. He holds a dual faculty appointment at the University of Iowa where he teaches courses in creative nonfictionin the English Department and serves as a public humanities scholar in the U of Iowa’s Carver Institute for Macular Degenaration. He speaks widely on diversity, disability, education, and public policy. His essays and poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and literary magazines including Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine; Poetry; and Partisan Review. He is currently working on a collection of prose poems for Copper Canyon Press entitled Mornings With Borges as well as a collection of political poems about disability. I learned that Marvin Bell (see below) was one of his teachers.

Wikipedi says: Marvin Bell (born 3 August 1937 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American poet and teacher who was the first Poet Laureate of the State of Iowa.

Bell was raised in Center Moriches, Long Island. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Alfred University, his master’s degree from the University of Chicago, and an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

He is the author of more than 16 books of poetry. Notable books of poetry including The Book of the Dead Man (Copper Canyon, 1994) and Ardor: The Book of the Dead Man, Vol. 2. (Copper Canyon, 1997)

Bell’s second book, A Probable Volume of Dreams, was awarded the prestigious Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets in 1969. Other honors for his work include Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, and Fullbright appointments in Yugoslavia and Australia. In 2000 Bell was appointed as the first Poet Laureate for the state of Iowa.

Bell taught for many years at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop as the Flannery O’Connor Professor of Letters. He currently is an emeritus faculty member. Over a long career Bell has held numerous visiting lectureships at universities, including Goddard College, Oregon State University, the University of Hawaii, and the University of Washington. He currently serves on the faculty of the Masters in Fine Arts in writing program at Pacific University in Oregon.[1]

Bell’s list of former students include Marilyn Chin, Rita Dove, Norman Dubie, James Galvin, Joy Harjo, David St. John, and James Tate.

Bell has written poems protesting the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and given readings for Poets Against War.[1]

He currently lives in Port Townshend, Washington and Iowa City.

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