Our Year in Review

Every year, we ask our faculty, current students, and alumni to send us updates on how their writing has been going over the past year. This is just a small sample of what we do here in the MFA Program!


Julie Goodale Introducing the Brainstorm Reading Series at Pete's Candy Store, September 22, 2023

Jason Tougaw, (New) Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation

The Fall 2023 semester in the MFA starts with big news: Distinguished Professor Kimiko Hahn has won The Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Prize for Lifetime Achievement. Previous winners include Sandra Cisneros, Nikki Giovanni, Rita Dove, John Ashbery, Joy Harjo, Patti Smith, Martín Espada, Sharon Olds, and former QC professor Marie Ponsot. Good company! John Weir won the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs for his new collection of short stories, Your Nostalgia Is Killing Me. Look out for Briallen Hopper’s forthcoming book, Gilead Reread

It’s my pleasure to take on the role as new program Director, with Briallen Hopper as Assistant Director. Nicole Cooley is taking a well-deserved sabbatical after fifteen years of leadership. She has run the program with enthusiasm, vision, and efficiency. That means Briallen and I inherit a program with a thriving community and curriculum. The fact that two of our alumni—Francesca Hyatt (Creative Nonfiction, 2021) and Rebecca Suzuki (Tranlsation 2022)—have been hired for full-time teaching positions in the English Department is evidence of that. We are thrilled they will continue to be members of our community for years to come. 

This year we also welcome our new visiting professor of fiction, Eugene Lim. He will teach undergraduate and graduate creative writing courses. Eugene is the author of the novels Fog & Car (Ellipsis Press, 2008; Coffee House Press, 2025), The Strangers (Black Square Editions, 2013), Dear Cyborgs (FSG Originals, 2017), and Search History (Coffee House Press, 2021). His writings have appeared in The New Yorker, The Believer, The Baffler, Granta, DazedLittle Star, The Denver Quarterly, The Brooklyn Rail, Your Impossible Voice, Vestiges and elsewhere. He runs Ellipsis Press and lives in Jackson Heights. He’s currently teaching a craft course on experimental fiction, he’ll teach a fiction workshop in the spring, and he is serving as faculty advisor to the editors of The Queens Review. His new chapbook is entitled Choir

All of us on the faculty love to celebrate the accomplishments of our students and alumni. I wish I could give you a comprehensive account, but they are way too prolific. You can check them out on our website though. For now, I’ll share a few of the accomplishments we’re celebrating. Roger Wyze Smith (Poetry, 2019) published Radiation Machine Gun Funk, a hybrid collection of poetry and memoir. Rebecca Suzuki (Translation, 2022), winner of last year’s Loose Translation Prize, will publish her hybrid of poetry and memoir, When My Mother Is Most Beautiful, this fall. Jacob Appel’s (Playwriting, 2013) short story collection, Amazing Things Are Happening Here, is also forthcoming this fall. Ariel Francisco (Translation, 2021), now tenure-track Assistant Professor in the MFA Program at Louisiana State University, published his fourth book of poetry, Under Capitalism If Your Head Aches They Just Yank It Off. Ariel is also the translator of Columbian poet Carolina Sanchez’s Viaje/Voyage and of Guatemalan poet Hael Lopez’s Routines/Goodbyes. 

Literary community is fundamental to our program. Writers need company! That’s why we’re so proud of students and alumni making literary culture. Catherine LaSota (Creative Nonfiction, 2023) is the founder of The Resort LIC, a writer’s community that offers both online and in-person workshops for hundreds of members. Marine Cornuet (Translation, 2022) is the press manager of Ugly Duckling Presse. Peter Vanderberg (Poetry, 2009) started Ghostbird Press, which publishes a range of beautiful chapbooks each year, including The Birdhouse Prize, an award to one of our graduating students. As winner of last spring’s Birdhouse Chapbook Award, Joe Gross published Lest We All Get Clipped (Poetry 2023), with Ghostbird Press, founded by alum Peter Vanderberg. Jacqui Cornetta (Translation, 2019) is a judge for PEN America’s Literary Awards. Current student Julie Goodale organizes Brainstorm, a lively student reading series—with events hosted at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn, the Queens Library, and on campus. Armstrong Literary, edited by our students, is a national journal. The spring issue has been a great success, publishing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translation, and interviews, much of it the kind of cross-genre work that’s the foundation of our program. Kudos to Managing Editors William Padgatoon and Leor Stylar, who graduated in Spring 2023. They worked with a fantastic team of editors from our program. Stay tuned for a name change and a new look from a collective of student editors.

We invite you to join us for a fantastic lineup of readings and workshops this academic year. Eugene Lim kicks off our Reading Series on October 3, in conversation with alum Kaz Uy—an event in collaboration with QC’s Off the Page series. On October 18, we will host Creative Nonfiction Now, including reading and conversation with Bridgett Davis, Carina del Valle Schorske, and Cutter Wood, moderated by alum Francesca Hyatt. Think growing up in Detroit with a mother who was a numbers runner; Puerto Rican backup dancers, graffiti artists, indigenous cave painters, state-funded photographers, tenement dwellers, and out-of-print poets; and investigative reporting on the vicissitudes of human waste (including a vomit cult). On November 6, we’re collaborating with archivists from QC’s Rosenthal Library to host On Black Solidarity Day, a celebration of the library’s new Black Mass Publishing archive. We’ll host an Open House for prospective MFA students on November 15 on Zoom at 5 pm. If you know writers who want to hone their craft, send them our way: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/7973756638 (meeting ID: 797 375 6638). 

The spring will just as busy. We’ll host two more collaborations with Off the Page: Ava Chin in conversation with President Frank Wu on February 21, and Living legend Vivian Gornick will be in conversation with alum Catherine LaSota. Chin happens to be QC alum and an award-winning author whose latest book is Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love, and the Perfect Meal. (Not to mention she’s a CUNY colleague, teaching at The College of Staten Island and the Biography and Memoir program at the Graduate Center.) We’ll celebrate this year’s Loose Translation prize with a reading from Rebecca Suzuki, in conversation with Roger Sedarat. Roger Wyze Smith and Sunu Chandy, author of My Dear Comrades, will join us for an alumni reading celebrating their recent books. Our annual Birdhouse Chapbook Prize reading will featuring alum Joe Gross in conversation with Kimiko Hahn and Peter Vanderberg. 

Of course, we’d love to welcome you to attend our events in person. Pandemic restrictions have been lifted and the campus is now open to visitors, so accessing events is easy. For those who want to participate in events from home, you can also join by Zoom. This year, we’ll start posting edited video of events on our website and social media. For more information about all of the above, check the Events page on our website. 

We continue to hold our Louis Armstrong House and Museum Residencies, which support three MFA students each spring as they create original work out of the vast collection of materials held in our library relating to Louis Armstrong. We’ll announce this year’s fellows later in the semester. We’ve also launched our micro-event series—informal workshops topics like literary performance with Roger Sedarat; Political Writing with John Weir; The Business of Publishing with alum Eleanor Whitney; and literary resumés with Kimiko Hahn. I encourage you to check out our News page for more information about all of these endeavors. 

We continue to be grateful to be on campus, and to be able to gather together for classes and events and readings with our MFA community. Our students continue to energize and amaze us. This fall, a cohort of enormously talented students joins our community. As our program continues to grow and evolve, they are, as Bette Midler would say, the wind beneath our wings. (Sorry for the dumb cliché; I couldn’t help myself. Blame Bette! Blame her drag impersonators!)

In closing, I’d like to extend deep gratitude to Nicole Cooley and Kimiko Hahn, founders of the MFA in Creative Writing & Literary Translation at Queens College. Without them, we wouldn’t be here. 

Faculty News

Ammiel Alcalay participated in a commemorative event for poet and painter Etel Adnan through the Guggenheim Museum, and was featured in a series of events memorializing artist Jimmie Durham through the Barbara Wien Gallery in Berlin; he also wrote the liner notes for an LP—Poems: Written, Drawn, Selected and Read by Jimmie Durham. His “From the Citadel: ‘I must have been an Arab once…’” appeared in the French Review of American Studies, and “In & Out of Place: Memories of Nissim Rejwan, Shimon Ballas, and Samir Naqqash,” appeared in Banipal in the UK. 

Annmarie Drury just published her essay titled “The Long Timeline in Aesthetic Relations: On Working with Abdilatif Abdalla’s Sauti ya Dhiki (‘Voice of Agony’)” in the book Decolonial Aesthetics, and she is correcting page proofs for The Imaginative Vision of Abdilatif Abdalla’s Voice of Agony, due out in January with the University of Michigan Press. (This book, edited by Annmarie, contains an English translation of the poems that Abdilatif wrote in prison, alongside reflection on them by writers and scholars.) She is also slowly translating work by the late Tanzanian poet Mwinyihatibu Mohamed, whose metaphors fascinate her. She continues to be a regular on the vodcast “Africanists Assemble” where she contributes in Swahili and English:

Briallen Hopper has been revising her second book, Gilead Reread, which is forthcoming from Columbia University Press. In the spring she taught Public Writing at CUNY Grad Center and served as a thesis reader in the Columbia MFA program. She spent the summer teaching at Yale Summer School and in the Yale Prison Education Initiative. She co-wrote a forthcoming piece on romcoms for Avidly and is scheduled to give a conference paper on the romcom Fire Island this fall. She is very much looking forward to working with MFA students as the interim Assistant Director of the program.

Eugene Lim published a chapbook titled Choir, which accompanies Sung Tieu’s Infra-Specter 2023 exhibit at Amant Gallery. In the latest issue of The Drift, he wrote a dispatch attempting to answer the question, What happened to the avant-garde? His piece, “Redacted Gratitude Lists from the Second Year of the Plague,” was published in Triple Canopy‘s issue #28. And excerpts from a novel-in-progress were published in recent issues of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern and 128Lit. His novel Search History won a 2023 Book Award from the Association of Asian American Studies.

Roger Sedarat published an academic article, “The Ritual of Baptism in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in The Mark Twain Journal. His new short fiction and poems have recently appeared in Nowruz Journal: a Periodical of Persian Arts and Letters, Essential Voices: Poetry of Iran and its Diaspora, and From the Belly: Poets Respond to Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons.  He is currently editing his translated selection of ghazals by Hafez (forthcoming, Word Works Press).

Jason Tougaw: During the past year, I’ve mostly been working on a book, Dear Marshall: What Eminem Means. In a playful blend of biography, memoir, and personal criticism, the book explores what it means to be a queer Eminem fan. Early on, I was an Eminem apologist. “It’s representation,” I’d say, invoking Mathers’s persistent explanation for his characters’ misdeeds and cultural violations. Many critics have noted that Eminem’s approach is literary and thrives on ambiguities—and his music distills the fraught iconography of American culture. But none have contextualized his music and persona within critical conversations or cultural histories. So I’m doing that. The book is about half-finished and the proposal is out with editors. In addition, I published a Bellevue Library Press conversation with novelist Maud Casey and published four essays in my regular column, The Elusive Brain, in Psychology Today.


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