Lia Purpura, writer in residence in UMBC’s English department, recently was a guest on WYPR’s “What are you reading?” segment to recommend essential reading for over the holidays and the new year. Purpura, who is an award winning poet and essayist, recommended The Essential Tales of Chekhov edited by Richard Ford and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
“Chekhov’s stories make inner lives completely bare,” Purpura shared on the program. By reading Chekhov, Purpura notes “you are shown your micro miscalculations and all those inner moral scales that you’ve got jangling around are laid bare in different characters…that sense of being seen and found out, and the almost painful little pangs of recognition are paradoxically such a joy.”
In discussing Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, Purpura shared that his articles in The Atlantic earlier this year inspired her to read more of his work.
“I’m working myself to figure out how to live more actively in Baltimore, and more in the midst of complicated Baltimore, his work is really central to that inner journey and a full understanding of ways that I want to listen and act,” Purpura explained.
Purpura’s latest collection of poems is titled It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful. The book recently received a positive review in Baltimore Magazine in which reviewer Gabriella Souza stated: “Each of Lia Purpura’s versus reads like a spontaneous gem, almost as if she has been struck with a moment of inspiration during everyday life and has paused to scribble down her thoughts. But don’t think that makes her poems any less profound.”
Purpura is author of seven books of essays and poems, and her list of honors includes a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts and Fulbright Fellowships, and three Pushcart prizes. Purpura started the English Reading Series at UMBC this fall, and the next reading featuring Ocean Vuong is scheduled for April 2016. Read more about her work on the English department website. Listen to Purpura’s full segment on WYPR.