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OKCU Hosts Nigerian Poet

Chris Abani
Chris Abani

Oklahoma City University will host Nigerian-born writer Chris Abani April 4 for the 20th annual Thatcher Hoffman Smith Poetry Series. The events, free to the public, include a 10 a.m. reading and conversation, a 6:15 p.m. community open mic and an 8 p.m. reading and Q&A session. They will be held in the Kerr McGee Auditorium of Meinders School of Business at N.W. 27th Street and McKinley Avenue.

Abani is a novelist, poet, essayist, screenwriter and playwright. Born in Nigeria to an Igbo father and English mother, he grew up in Afikpo, Nigeria, and received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Imo State University, Nigeria.

As a youth he was awakened to activism. As a result of his writing and voicing opposition to an oppressive government, he was incarcerated as a political prisoner. He later left Nigeria and earned his Master of Arts in English, gender and culture from Birkbeck, University of London; and then a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from the University of Southern California. He has resided in the United States since 2001 and currently holds an endowed board of trustees professorship at Northwestern University.

Abani is well known for his TED Talks and journalistic essays focusing on humanitarianism, the social role of art and storytelling, ethics and political responsibility. One of his publishers, Copper Canyon Press, stated: “A self-described ‘zealout of optimism,’ poet and best-selling novelist Chris Abani bravely travels the charged intersections of atrocity and love, politics and religion, loss and renewal. With language of devastating beauty and complexity, he investigates conflicted personal history and political tragedy, and how the human body fares against both.”

He is the recipient of the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the PEN Hemingway Book Prize and a Guggenheim Award.

His poetry collections are “Sanctificum,” “There Are No Names for Red,” “Feed Me The Sun – Collected Long Poems,” “Hands Washing Water,” “Dog Woman,” “Daphne’s Lot” and “Kalakuta Republic.” His fiction includes “The Secret History of Las Vegas,” “Song for Night,” “The Virgin of Flames,” “Becoming Abigail,” “GraceLand” and “Masters of the Board.”

Visit Arbani’s website for more information about his work at chrisarbani.com.

For more information about the events at OCU, visit okcufilmlit.org, call 405-208-5707 or send an email to [email protected]. The Center for Interpersonal Studies through Film & Literature is sponsoring the events with support from Oklahoma Humanities in collaboration with the Petree College of Arts and Sciences, the OCU English Department, the Oklahoma Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain, the Oklahoma Writing Project and Full Circle Bookstore.

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