Columbia University School of the Arts Writing Program faculty members Margo Jefferson and Sam Lipsyte will participate in the opening reading of the First Person Plural Reading Series, presented by the FPP Harlem Collective on March 5.
Writing Program faculty Amy Benson co-founded the series, with fellow Harlem-based writers Wendy S. Walters and Stacy Parker Le Melle, in order to showcase and explore the collective voice in works of literature and art.
“We wanted to create a series with a thematic thread, where conversation could rise from one writer to another, and from one reading to the next,” said Benson. “The series asks writers to read something in first person plural point of view, to explore the limits and untapped potential of what ‘we’ can say. ‘We’ sometimes seems impossible, and that’s an interesting place to start.”
At the inaugural event, Jefferson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning cultural critic, and Lipsyte, a novelist, will read work written especially for the series, as well as other recent work. The event is free and open to the public and also features cross-genre artists Mendi + Keith Obadike.
The First Person Plural Reading Series will be hosted by Shrine World Music Venue in Harlem. Shrine was founded in 2007 and has since been dedicated to art and culture across all mediums—film, theater, dance and music.
“We’re thrilled to collaborate with Shrine,” said Benson. “Together we hope to add to the tradition that’s made Harlem a flourishing and vibrant center for the arts.”
Margo Jefferson is a cultural critic and the author of On Michael Jackson (Vintage). She was a staff writer for The New York Times for 12 years, and received a Pulitzer Prize in 1995. Her reviews and essays have appeared in Bookforum, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Grand Street, The Nation, and MS. She has been anthologized in The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Death (Norton), Best African American Essays, 2010, Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness, The Mrs. Dalloway Reader, The Sammy Davis, Jr. Reader and The Jazz Cadence of American Culture(Columbia). She also wrote and performed a solo theater piece, Sixty Minutes in Negroland at The Cherry Lane and The Culture Project. Currently, she teaches writing at Columbia University and Eugene Lang College.
Sam Lipsyte is the author of The Ask, Venus Drive, The Subject Steve and Home Land, a New York Times Notable Book of 2005 and winner of the Believer Book Award. His writing has appeared in Bookforum, N+1, McSweeney’s, Tin House, NOON, The Quarterly, Esquire, GQ and Playboy, among other places. He is a 2008 Guggenheim Fellow.
Mendi + Keith Obadike make music, art, and literature. Their work has been commissioned by The NY African Film Festival / Electronic Arts Intermix, Northwestern University, Bucknell University, The Kitchen, The Yale Cabaret, Whitechapel Art Gallery (London), Rhizome / The New Museum and The Whitney Museum of Art. They have released two albums on Bridge Records, a book of poetry with Lotus Press, and two forthcoming artist books on 1913 Press. They are currently working on a new series of sound installations and touring their opera-masquerade Four Electric Ghosts.