Local writers share their journeys in “Odysseys” series

Odysseys event poster

Homer’s Odyssey recounts the adventures of Odysseus, king of Ithaca, as he seeks to return home after the Trojan War. In four monthly readings, pairs of Ithaca‑based writers provide their own takes on the theme of odysseys, from the physical to the intellectual to the emotional.

“Odysseys: Ithaca Writers on Exile, Wandering, and Searching for Home” is organized by Ithaca City of Asylum and cosponsored by Buffalo Street Books, Global Cornell, Cornell Migrations, Ithaca College Department of Writing, Odyssey Bookstore, Story House Ithaca, and Tompkins County Public Library.

All readings are via Zoom and begin at 7 p.m. Admission is free. Please register for each event separately.

  • Session 1: Tuesday, Feb. 23 (watch on YouTube): Gail Holst-Warhaft and Aoise Stratford, moderated by David Guaspari
  • Session 2: Tuesday, March 16 (watch on YouTube): Sorayya Khan and Raza Rumi, moderated by Barbara Adams
  • Session 3: Tuesday, April 13 (watch on YouTube): Valzhyna Mort and Raul Palma, moderated by Kate Blackwood
  • Session 4: Tuesday, May 18 (register): Minfong Ho and Kenneth A. McClane, moderated by Edward Hower

About the authors

Gail Holst-Warhaft (February 23) has been a poet, translator, journalist, academic, and musician. Born in Australia, she lived for five years in Greece, where she played harpsichord with the composer Mikis Theodorakis and wrote two books about Greek popular music. After moving to Ithaca in 1980, she received a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at Cornell and taught courses on Mediterranean culture. She is a board member and former chair of Ithaca City of Asylum. Gail has published two books on grief and lament, many translations of Greek literature, and two collections of her own poetry. One, Penelope’s Confession, is written from the perspective of Odysseus’ wife.

Aoise Stratford (February 23) is a dramaturg, writer, and lecturer at Cornell. Her plays have won several awards and been produced around the world, including at National Theatre London, The Seymour Center, InspiraTO Festival, Solo Chicago, Centenary Stage, and others. Her play The Unfortunates won the 2012 Susan Glaspell Award and was a Time Out NY Critics Pick. Locally, she has co-authored two walking headphone plays for The Cherry Arts and adapted A Christmas Carol for The Hangar Theatre. She grew up in Australia.

Sorayya Khan (March 16) is the author of the novels Noor, Five Queen’s Road, and City of Spies, which received the Best International Fiction Book Award from the Sharjah International Book Fair. She is the recipient of a U.S. Fulbright Research Grant, a Malahat Review Novella Prize, and a Constance Saltonstall Artist Grant. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Longreads, The Kenyon Review, North American Review, Journal of Narrative Politics, and other publications. She is currently at work on a memoir.

Raza Rumi (March 16) is director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College and visiting faculty at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs. He is the author of Delhi by Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani TravelerThe Fractious Path: Pakistan’s Democratic Transition; Identity, Faith, and Conflict; and Being Pakistani: Society, Culture, and the Arts. He co-edited a volume of essays entitled Rethinking Pakistan that was published by Anthem Press in September 2020. Raza was Ithaca City of Asylum’s writer in residence from 2015 to 2017 and now serves on the ICOA board.

Valzhyna Mort (April 13) is a poet and translator born in Minsk, Belarus. She is the author of the poetry collections Factory of Tears (Copper Canyon Press 2008), Collected Body (Copper Canyon Press 2011) and, mostly recently, Music for the Dead and Resurrected (FSG, 2020). Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry, New Yorker, Poetry, Poetry Review, Poetry International, Prairie Schooner, Granta, Gulf Coast, White Review, and many more publications. She has been honored with the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry and the Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award. Mort teaches at Cornell and writes in English and Belarusian.

Raul Palma (April 13) is a novelist, short story writer, and assistant professor of writing at Ithaca College, where he serves as the faculty advisor to Stillwater Magazine. His fiction has been included in Best Small Fictions 2018 and distinguished/notable in Best American Short Stories 2016. His work has been supported with fellowships and scholarships from the CubaOne Foundation, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, the Santa Fe Writer’s Conference, the Sewanee Writer’s Conference, and the Sundress Academy for the Arts. Presently, he is at work on a novel titled A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens.

Minfong Ho (May 18) was born in Myanmar of ethnic Chinese parents, raised in Thailand, and educated in Taiwan and the United States. She has written several books for young adults and children, mostly set in Southeast Asia. These include The Clay Marble and Hush! She worked as a journalist in Singapore, taught at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, and ran a food program on the Thai-Khmer border for Cambodian refugees. Although she has remained a U.S. Permanent Alien for over 35 years, Ithaca has come to feel like home.

Kenneth A. McClane (May 18) is Cornell’s W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of Literature Emeritus and the author of eight books of poems, including A Tree Beyond Telling and Take Five: Collected Poems, 1971-1986. He has also written two collections of personal essays: Walls (1992) and Color: Essays on Race, Family and History (2009). He has served on the board of trustees of Adelphi University, and on the board of directors of the Tompkins County Library Foundation, the Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, the New York Council for the Humanities, and the Tompkins County Community Foundation.

For more information, please contact David Guaspari at dguaspari@gmail.com.

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