An April 26-May 11, 2011 Reading Tour took a group of American writers to Nepal, Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, and Pakistan. For the US participants, this was an opportunity to gain an understanding of each country’s unique landscape, acute cultural tensions, and complex environment of its literatures. In return, the writers conducted readings, talks, class visits, workshops with language and literature students and faculty members, meetings with literary groups, and conducting exchanges and mutual interviews with publishers and journalists along the way. Among the highlights in Nepal were lectures and workshops at Kathmandu and Tribhuwan universities, and workshops with young writers at public spaces and private schools. In Pakistan, the Americans participated in a number of media roundtables with Karachi-based writers and journalists. In UAE, readings, discussions and lectures took place at Zayed University, NYU Abu Dhabi, several local colleges and at American corners. And in Afghanistan, workshops, lectures and conversations were hopsted by the Kabul, the American and the Kabul Educational universities.
The group parted and rejoined throughout the tour, sharing their impressions with one another of various places they had been. A sketch of the events is captured in the half-hour film Postcards from the Earth’s Whisper (see below), made by the New York-based filmmaker Ram Devineni.
This tour was made possible by a grant from the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the US Embassies and Consulates in each country.
Bob Holman is a poet, multimedia producer, poetry activist and performance poetry professor who lives in New York City. Bob has published eight books, including A Couple of Ways of Doing Something (2006), praise poems paired with daguerreotypes of artists by Chuck Close. He's also put poetry on television, radio and the Web, producing The United States of Poetry for PBS, appearing on MTV's Spoken Word Unplugged and HBO's Def Poetry Jam, and serving as poetry commentator on WNYC and NPR. Currently, he teaches "Exploding Text: Poetry in Performance" at Columbia University, and is the founder and proprietor of the Bowery Poetry Club. He recently co-founded the Endangered Language Alliance, with a special interest in the poetry of endangered languages.
Joshua Ferris's debut 2007 novel Then We Came to the End, published in 25 languages, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and received the 2007 PEN/Hemingway Award. His short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Best American Short Stories, Granta, and Tin House, among others. In 2010 The New Yorker named him one of twenty best writers under 40. His second novel, The Unnamed, was published in January 2010. He lives in New York.
Nathalie Handal's books include the landmark anthology, Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond, and the poetry collection Love and Strange Horses (2010). Handal was an Honored Finalist for the 2009 Freedom Award and is a Lannan Foundation Fellow 2011. She writes the column The City and the Writer for the on-line journal Words without Borders.
Eliza Griswold, a fellow at the New America Foundation and a former Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, reports on religion, conflict and human rights. She is now at work on The Tenth Parallel, an examination of Christianity and Islam in Africa and Asia. Her first book of poems, Wideawake Field, was published in 2007; she is the recipient of the 2010 Rome Prize from The American Academy in Rome. Her reportage and poetry have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, Harpers, The New Republic, among many others.
Christopher Merrill's books include collections of poetry, Brilliant Water, Workbook, Fevers & Tides, and Watch Fire; translations of Ales Debeljak's Anxious Moments and The City and the Child; several edited volumes, among them, The Forgotten Language:Contemporary Poets and Nature and From the Faraway Nearby: Georgia O'Keeffe as Icon; and five books of nonfiction, Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain, The Grass of Another Country: A Journey Through the World of Soccer, The Old Bridge:The Third Balkan War and the Age of the Refugee, Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars, and The Tree of Doves:Ceremony, Expedition, War. He directs the International Writing Program at The University of Iowa.
Ram Devineni is the founder and editor of Rattapallax, Inc., which publishes poetry books and DVDs. He recently directed the web-series "VERSE: A Murder Mystery," and is at work on a documentary about human towers around the world. He is the producer of O Sonho Bollywoodiano (dir. Beatriz Seigner), and of Vegas: Based on a True Story, directed by Amir Naderi, and selected for competition at the 2008 Venice Film Festival.