2021–2022 VCU Visiting Writers Series

Leila Chatti2021 Levis Reading Prize
Leila Chatti

September 23, 2021 – 7PM
Hosted at VCU Cabell Library Third Floor Lecture Hall (will also be made available via Zoom)

Leila Chatti is the winner of the 2021 Levis Reading Prize for her poetry collection Deluge.

Awarded by the Department of English and its MFA in Creative Writing program at Virginia Commonwealth University, the prize is given annually in the name of the late Larry Levis for the best first or second book of poetry published in the previous calendar year. Chatti will receive an award of $5000 and will participate in a virtual event at 7 p.m. on September 23, 2021. 

Deluge, Chatti’s debut full-length poetry collection, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2020 and was selected for the longlist for the 2021 PEN America Open Book Award. Chatti is also the author of the chapbooks Ebb (Akashic Book, 2018) and Tunsiya/Amrikiya (Bull City Press, 2018), as well as individual poems published in such journals as Poetry, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and New England Review, among other publications.  Chatti is a Tunisian-American dual citizen, and she teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is the Mendota Lecturer in Poetry.

Sponsors of the Levis Reading Prize include VCU Libraries, VCU Department of English, Barnes & Noble @ VCU, and the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences, with additional funding provided by the family of Larry Levis.

The event is free and open to all.


Sheri ReynoldsKathy DavisMFA Alumni Spotlight Event
Kathy Davis

Sheri Reynolds
(The Tender Grave)

October 21, 2021 – 7PM
Virtual Event hosted VCU Cabell Library

Kathy Davis is a poet and nonfiction writer whose work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Blackbird, Diode, Guernica Magazine, The Hudson Review, The Massachusetts Review, Nashville Review, Oxford American, The Southern Review, storySouth and other journals. She is the author of Passiflora, which won the 2019 Cider Press Review Book Award and was released in February 2021, and of the chapbook Holding for the Farrier (Finishing Line Press). Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and been a finalist for Best of the Net and the Conger Beasley Jr. Award. Kathy has a BA and MBA from Vanderbilt University and an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. She lives in Rockville, Va.

Sheri Reynolds’ newest novel, The Tender Grave, was released in March of 2021. She’s also the author of the novels Bitterroot Landing, The Rapture of Canaan (an Oprah book club selection and New York Times bestseller), A Gracious Plenty, Firefly Cloak, The Sweet In-Between, The Homespun Wisdom of Myrtle T. Cribb, and the play, Orabelle's Wheelbarrow. Sheri teaches creative writing and literature at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA, where she currently serves as department chair of English. She lives in the town of Cape Charles on Virginia's Eastern Shore.

The event is free and open to all.


Raven Leilani2021 Cabell First Novelist Award
Raven Leilani

November 10, 2021 – 7PM
Hosted at VCU Cabell Library Third Floor Lecture Hall.

Raven Leilani, and her debut novel, Luster, is the winner of the 2021 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award.  Leilani’s work has been published in Granta, The Yale Review, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Conjunctions, The Cut, and New England Review, among other publications. She received her MFA from NYU and was an Axinn Foundation Writer-in-Residence.

The VCU Cabell First Novelist Award is presented on behalf of VCU’s MFA in Creative Writing program. Sponsors include the James Branch Cabell Library Associates, VCU Libraries, the VCU Department of English, Barnes & Noble @ VCU and the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences.

For more information please visit the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award web site at:


The event is free and open to all.


LeAnne Howe authorLeAnne Howe
(Savage Conversations)

November 18, 2021 – 7PM
Hosted at VCU Cabell Library Third Floor Lecture Hall

LeAnne Howe is an enrolled citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Her books include Famine Pots: The Choctaw Irish Gift Exchange, 1847-Present, co-edited with Padraig Kirwan (Michigan State University Press, 2020), and When The Light of The World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry, co-edited with U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo and Jennifer Elise Foerster (W. W. Norton, 2020). Her other works include Shell Shaker, Evidence of Red, Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story, Choctalking on Other Realities, and Seeing Red, Pixeled Skins: American Indians and Film, She is the Eidson Distinguished Professor of American Literature in English at the University of Georgia.

This event is presented as part of the HRC Race, Ethnicity and Social Justice Speaker Series and is co-sponsored by the VCU Department of English and VCU Libraries.

For more information please visit the VCU Humanities Research Center web site at:




Amina GautierKatarzyna Jakubiak author photo2022 Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto Short Fiction Prize
Winner Katarzyna Jakubiak for the story "Made of Sugar"
With a special reading by Amina Gautier

March 3, 2022 – 7PM
Hosted at VCU Cabell Library Third Floor Lecture Hall (will also be made available via Zoom)

The Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto Short Fiction Prize is sponsored by the family of Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto in her memory to honor her devotion to the art of writing fiction, to expand the audience for outstanding short stories, and to encourage literary excellence among writers early in their careers. $2,000 will be awarded periodically to the best work of short fiction published by Blackbird, with a particular emphasis on work by an emerging or underappreciated writer. No application form or fee is required; all short fiction submitted to the journal is eligible.

Katarzyna Jakubiak is the author of a short story collection Nieostre widzenia. Her scholarship, translations, and fiction have appeared in the magazines Twórczość, Gulf Coast, Callaloo, Theater Journal, the anthology New European Poets, and elsewhere. Her book-length Polish translations of Yusef Komunyakaa’s poetry won the New Voices in Translation Award from the Polish magazine Literatura na świecie. She is an associate professor of English at Millersville University of Pennsylvania.

Amina Gautier is the author of three short story collections: At-Risk, Now We Will Be Happy, and The Loss of All Lost Things. At-Risk was awarded the Flannery O’Connor Award; Now We Will Be Happy was awarded the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction; The Loss of All Lost Things was awarded the Elixir Press Award in Fiction. More than one hundred and twenty-five of her stories have been published, appearing in AGNI, Blackbird, Boston Review, Callaloo, Cincinnati Review, Glimmer Train, Greensboro Review, Gulf Coast, Joyland, Kenyon Review, Latino Book Review, Mississippi Review, New Flash Fiction Review, Quarterly West, Southern Review, and TriQuarterly among other places. She is the recipient of the Eric Hoffer Legacy Fiction Award, the Phillis Wheatley Book Award in Fiction, the International Latino Book Award, and the Chicago Public Library Foundation’s 21st Century Award. For her body of work she has received the PEN/MALAMUD Award for Excellence in the Short Story.


Shawna Kay RodenbergKhaled Mattawa

Khaled Mattawa
(Fugitive Atlas)
Shawna Kay Rodenberg

April 12, 2022 – 7PM
Virtual Event hosted VCU Cabell Library

Khaled Mattawa was born in Benghazi, Libya, in 1964 and immigrated to the United States in his teens. He is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently, Fugitive Atlas (Graywolf Press, 2020), a critical study, Mahmoud Darwish: The Poet's Art and His Nation (Syracuse University Press, 2014). Mattawa has also translated many volumes of contemporary Arabic poetry and coedited two anthologies of Arab American literature. Mattawa is the 2010 recipient of the Academy of American Poets Fellowship. He has received a Guggenheim fellowship, a translation grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Alfred Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, the PEN American Center Poetry Translation Prize, four Pushcart Prizes, and a MacArthur Fellowship. A Chancellor Emeritus (2014-2020) of the Academy of American Poets, Mattawa is the William Wilhartz Endowed Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan, where he directs the Arab and Muslim American Studies Program and directs Michigan Quarterly Review.

Shawna Kay Rodenberg is the author of Kin, out now from Bloomsbury. She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and her reviews and essays have appeared in Consequence, Salon, the Village Voice, and Elle. In 2016, Shawna was awarded the Jean Ritchie Fellowship, and in 2017 she was the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award. A registered nurse, community college English instructor, mother of five, and grandmother of two, she lives on a hobby goat farm in southern Indiana.

The event is free and open to all, but advance registration is required.


Previous VCU Visiting Writers

Dorothy Allison • Jimmy Santiago Baca • Richard Bausch • Bruce Beasley • Aimee Bender • Charles Bernstein • John Bresland • Linda Bierds • Robert Olen Butler • Ron Carlson • John Casey • Jade Chang • Victoria Chang • Kelly Cherry • Joan Connor • Rebecca Curtis • Dennis Danvers • Samuel R. Delany • Junot Díaz • Mark Doty • Camille Dungy • Stephen Dunn • Stuart Dybek • John Englehardt •  Angela Flournoy • Nick Flynn • Ru Freeman • Mary Gaitskill • Beckian Fritz Goldberg • Linda Gregerson • Jennifer Grotz • Elizabeth Hand • Ron Hansen • Terrance Hayes • Fanny Howe • Barbara Hurd • Richard Jackson • Allison Joseph • Alison Kennedy • Ilya Kaminsky •  Yusef Komunyaaka • Nick Lantz • Katherine Larson • Rickey Laurentiis • Dana Levin • Philip Levine • Kelly Link • Bret Lott • Thomas Lux • Elizabeth McCracken • Erin McGraw • Ling Ma • Thomas Mallon • Dinty Moore • Melinda Moustakis • Emily Nemens • Craig Nova • Larry Palmer •  Kiki Petrosino •  Stanley Plumly • Lia Purpura • Roger Reeves • Paisley Rekdal • Sheri Reynolds • David Rivard • Mary Ruefle • George Saunders • Christine Schutt • Rion Amilcar Scott • Alan Shapiro • Solmaz Sharif • Tom Sleigh • Karen Solie • Gerald Stern • Darin Strauss • Jean Thompson • Natasha Trethewey • Ellen Bryant Voigt • Helene Wecker • Colson Whitehead • CK Williams • Charles Wright • Jenny Xie • Dean Young • Michele Young-Stone • Matthew Zapruder

All events are free and open to the public. The series is sponsored by the Department of English of the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences and the Graduate Writers' Association, with additional funding made possible through the generosity of VCU Libraries, Barnes & Noble @ VCU Bookstore, and the family of Larry Levis.

In addition, the Graduate Writers Association sponsors The Moveable Feast, a series of readings given by MFA students. Each spring the series, held at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, features thesis readings by students in their final year in the program.