As part of our 18th  season, in April 2021, Under the Volcano presented a series of live curated conversations with leading poets, novelists, journalists and scientists to challenge our collective mind as we began to look beyond the first anniversary of the pandemic.
We are deeply grateful to the  extraordinary guests who lent their minds and voices to these special events.


Day 1: Saturday, April 10 

10 am PST / 12 pm MEX/CST / 1 pm EST / 6 pm UK / 7 pm EUR

90 minutes


Invocation Words of Witness

Three leading poets offer words to feed the soul and fire the imagination.
Cyrus Cassells (us)

Cyrus Cassells’s latest book of poetry is The Gospel According to Wild Indigo, a finalist for the
NAACP Image Award in Poetry.  Earlier volumes include The Mud Actor (1982), winner of the
1981 National Poetry Series competition; Soul Make a Path through Shouting (1994),
nominated for the Pulitzer Prize (1994) and winner of the William Carlos William Award;
Beautiful Signor (1997), winner of the Lambda Literary Award; More Than Peace and Cypresses
(2004) and The Crossed-Out Swastika (2012). He’s a recipient of a Lannan Literary Award and,
most recently, a Guggenheim Fellowship. Still Life with Children: Selected Poems of Francesc
Parcerisas, translated from the Catalan, was published by Stephen F. Austin State University
Press in March 2019. Raised in California, he teaches at Texas State University and lives in
Austin and Hawaii.

Ilya Kaminsky (us/ ukraine)

Ilya Kaminsky was born in the former Soviet Union city of Odessa. He lost most of his hearing at the age of four after a doctor misdiagnosed mumps as a cold, and his family was granted political asylum by the United States in 1993, settling in Rochester, New York. After his father’s death, in 1994, Kaminsky began to write poems in English. “I chose English,” he said in an interview, “because no one in my family or friends knew it—no one I spoke to could read what I wrote. I myself did not know the language. It was a parallel reality, an insanely beautiful freedom. It still is.

Ilya Kaminsky has since become an acclaimed voice in the US poetry world and internationally.  After earning a BA in political science at Georgetown University and a JD at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, he has been honored with a Whiting Writers’ Award, the Milton Center’s Award for Excellence in Writing, the Florence Kahn Memorial Award, Poetry magazine’s Levinson Prize as well as their Ruth Lilly Fellowship, Philips Exeter Academy’s George Bennett Fellowship, and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the Academy of American Poets fellowship. 

Kaminsky is the author of Dancing in Odessa (2004), which won the Tupelo Press Dorset Prize, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award, and ForeWord Magazine’s Best Poetry Book of the Year award. Traveling Musicians (2007) is a selection of his poems originally written in Russian. His most recent collection is Deaf Republic (2019), which was named a New York Times Notable Book for that year and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry in 2020. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife, writer Katie Farris, and teaches at the University of Georgia Institute of Technology. 


Rita Dove (us)

Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio in 1952. A 1970 Presidential Scholar, she attended Miami University of Ohio, Universität Tübingen in Germany and the University of Iowa. In 1987 she received the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, and from 1993-1995 she served as U.S. Poet Laureate. Author of a novel, a short story collection, a book of essays, and ten volumes of poetry — most recently Sonata Mulattica, her poetic treatise of 19th century Afro-European violin prodigy George Bridgetower (winner of the 2010 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award) and Collected Poems 1974-2004 (winner of a 2017 NAACP Image Award) — she also edited The Penguin Anthology of 20th-Century American Poetry (2011) and, in 2018/19, a weekly poetry column for The New York Times Magazine. Her song cycle Seven for Luck, with music by John Williams, was premiered by the Boston Symphony, and her play The Darker Face of the Earth had successful runs at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Kennedy Center in Washington and the Royal National Theatre in London, among other venues. Rita Dove’s next volume of poems, Playlist for the Apocalypse, is forthcoming from W.W. Norton in the summer of 2021, and a new song cycle, Standing Witness, with music by Richard Danielpour, will premiere at Tanglewood and the Kennedy Center in 2021 as well.

Rita Dove’s numerous honors include the Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities, Lifetime Achievement Medals from the Library of Virginia and the Fulbright Commission, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets as well as 28 honorary doctorates, among them from Yale and Harvard. In 1996 she received the National Humanities Medal from President Clinton and in 2011 the National Medal of Arts from President Obama — the only poet ever to receive both medals. She has served as president of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) and as chancellor of the honor society Phi Beta Kappa. An elected member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she is Henry Hoyns Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Virginia, where she has been teaching since 1989. 


Words of Witness

A conversation with two consummate writers whose art gives voice to the “voiceless.”
Carolyn Forché (us)

CAROLYN FORCHÉ’S first volume of poetry, Gathering the Tribes, winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, was followed by The Country Between Us, The Angel of History, and Blue Hour. In March, 2020, Penguin Press published her fifth collection of poems, In the Lateness of the World. She is also the author of the memoir What You Have Heard Is True (Penguin Press, 2019), a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Juan E. Mendez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America. She has translated Mahmoud Darwish, Claribel Alegria, and Robert Desnos. Her international anthology, Against Forgetting, has been praised by Nelson Mandela as “itself a blow against tyranny, against prejudice, against injustice.” In 1998 in Stockholm, she received the Edita and Ira Morris Hiroshima Foundation for Peace and Culture Award for her human rights advocacy and the preservation of memory and culture. She is one of the first poets to receive the Wyndham Campbell Prize from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, and recently received a Lannan Awardd for Poetry. She is a University Professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Elena Poniatowska (mexico)

Elena Poniatowska is one of Latin America’s and Mexico’s greatest living writers, recognized in 2014 by Spain’s Cervantes Prize for lifetime literary achievement, the equivalent of the Nobel for the Spanish-speaking world.

She has been a prolific journalist all her life, with a parallel career in fiction and has been one of the pioneers of a genre known in the Spanish-speaking world as literatura testimonio, or writing that bears witness. 

Drawing on the techniques of muralism and collage, several of her books stand as monuments to critical moments in 20th century and recent Mexican history and to the multiplicity of individuals who shaped them. 

Her style across all her writing bears the hallmarks of her unique voice, which is simultaneously lyrical and playful, documentary and at times irreverent, especially when she turns her writer’s lens on herself as either interviewer or subject.

Magda Bogin (US),  Moderator

Biology Meets Journalism

An investigative journalist and an evolutionary biologist share the passions behind their pursuit of stories that resist easy telling and reshape the way we see the world. 
Valeria Souza (mexico)

Valeria Souza Saldivar is an evolutionary biologist whose work focuses on the origins of life. With a lab based at the Institute of Ecology of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma Mexicana (UNAM), in Mexico City, she has conducted field work for more than twenty years at Cuatro Ciénegas, in northern Mexico, a unique site that holds continuous microscopic forms of prehistoric life. The work has revealed that microbes in these desert springs represent unique microbial lineages that she has worked to protect from groundwater extraction.

Her numerous awards and recognitions include a fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation, a National Conservation Award, and the Aldo Leopold fellowship awarded by the Woods Institute of Stanford, California. In 2019 she was named an international member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and more recently received an Environmental Stewardship Award from the Society of Freshwater Science.

Ginger Thompson (us)

Ginger Thompson is ProPublica’s chief of correspondents. A Pulitzer Prize winner, she spent 15 years at The New York Times as the Mexico City bureau chief and as an investigative reporter. Her work has exposed the consequences of Washington’s policies in Latin America, particularly policies involving immigration, political upheaval and the fight against drug cartels.

Thompson also served as a Latin America correspondent at The Baltimore Sun, where she co-wrote a series of stories about U.S. support for a secret Honduran military unit that kidnapped, tortured and murdered hundreds of suspected leftists; work that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She also parachuted into breaking news events across the region, including Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela.

Her reporting has won the Maria Moors Cabot Prize, the Selden Ring Award for investigative reporting, an InterAmerican Press Association Award, and an Overseas Press Club Award. She was part of a team of national reporters at the Times that was awarded a 2000 Pulitzer Prize for the series “How Race is Lived in America.” She was also part of a team of reporters at ProPublica whose coverage of the Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance policy won numerous other awards, including a Polk Award, a Peabody Award and a Tobenkin Prize, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.  In the spring of 2019, Thompson broke the story of young children being separated from their parents and held on the US border with Mexico.

She earned a Master of Public Policy from George Washington University, with a focus on human rights law, and has recently been a guest faculty member at the Craig Newmark Graduate  School of Journalism at the City University of New York. She helped design Under the Volcano’s investigative journalism component and taught our first investigative journalism master class in 2018.

Magda Bogin (US),  Moderator

Day 2: Sunday, April 11 

10 am PST / 12 pm MEX/CST / 1 pm EST / 6 pm UK / 7 pm EUR

90 minutes

Black Holes and The Lure of the Unknown

As science unveils the mysteries of the universe,  an astrophysicist and three novelists explore the shifts that ripple through the imagination when the unknown becomes known.
Priyamvada Natarajan (us/india)

Priyamvada Natarajan is a theoretical astrophysicist with joint appointments in the departments of Astronomy and Physics at Yale University. She is noted for her work in mapping dark matter and dark energy, particularly with her work in gravitational lensing, and in models describing the assembly and accretion histories of supermassive black holes. Her research involves mapping the detailed distribution of dark matter in the universe exploiting the bending of light en route to us from distant galaxies. In particular, she has focused on making dark matter maps of clusters of galaxies, the largest known repositories of dark matter.
She authored the book Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos.

Recipient of numerous fellowships, including from the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard and the Guggenheim Foundation, Natarajan was elected a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2009, the American Physical Society in 2010, and the Explorers Club in 2010. In addition to current appointments at Yale and Harvard, she also holds the Sophie and Tycho Brahe Professorship, Dark Cosmology Center, Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and was recently elected to an honorary professorship for life at the University of Delhi. She is on the scientific advisory board of Nova ScienceNow.

Alberto Chimal (mexico)

Mexico’s Alberto Chimal is a prolific novelist, short story writer and essayist known as one of his country’s pioneers of experimental and online narrative. A frequent anthologist and cultural columnist, he also maintains a literary YouTube channel with writer Raquel Castro and contributes to Mexican literary journals Literal Magazine and Armas y LetrasHis novels include Los esclavos (2009), La torre y el jardín (2012) and Cartas para Lluvia (2017), which have alternated with collections of short fiction such as Gente del mundo (1998), El país de los hablistas (2001), Éstos son los días (2004), Grey (2006), La ciudad imaginada (2009), El viajero del tiempo (2011), Los atacantes (2015) and Manos de lumbre (2018). Recent honors include the Premio Bellas Artes de Narrativa Colima (2014 ) and the Premio de la Fundación Cuatrogatos (2018). He has taught widely, both privately and in writing programs in Mexico and abroad. His work has been translated into English, French, Italian, Hungarian and Esperanto, as well as into several indigenous Mexican languages. Alberto Chimal lives in Mexico City.

Victor LaValle (us)

Victor LaValle is the author of seven works of fiction and one comic book. His most recent
novel, The Changeling, was named a Best Book of 2017 by Time Magazine, USA Today, and the
New York Public Library, among others. He teaches writing at Columbia University and lives there with his wife, the writer Emily Raboteau, and their two children.

Annalee Newitz (us)

Annalee Newitz writes science fiction and nonfiction. They are the author of the book Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age, and the novels The Future of Another Timeline, and Autonomous, which won the Lambda Literary Award. As a science journalist, they are a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and have a monthly column in New Scientist. They have published in The Washington Post, Slate, Popular Science, Ars Technica, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic, among others. They are also the co-host of the Hugo Award-winning podcast Our Opinions Are Correct. Previously, they were the founder of io9, and served as the editor-in-chief of Gizmodo. 

Magda Bogin (US) & Gabriela Damián Miravete (Mexico), Moderators


Writers on Writing

Day 3: April 14

10 am PST /12 pm MEX/CST/ 1 pm EST/ 6 pm UK/ 7 pm EUR

60 minutes

Writing in the Time of Corona

Novelists from four countries weigh in on how the epic experience of the pandemic has affected their writing. 
Gina Apostol (philippines/us)

Gina Apostol grew up in the Philippines and lives in western Massachusetts and New York, where she writes her novels on revolution and language, power and translation, storytelling and history. Her most recent work has focused on the Philippine-American war and acts of narration as forms of invention and liberation. Her fourth novel, Insurrecto, was named by Publishers’ Weekly one of the Ten Best Books of 2018. Her third book, Gun Dealers’ Daughter, won the 2013 PEN/Open Book Award. Her first two novels, Bibliolepsy and The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata, both won the Juan Laya Prize for the Novel (Philippine National Book Award). Her essays and stories have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, Foreign Policy, Gettysburg Review, Massachusetts Review, and others. She teaches at the Fieldston School.


Francisco Goldman (guatemala/us)

Francisco Goldman has been a hybrid from the get-go. He was born in Boston to a Guatemalan Catholic mother and a Russian Jewish father, and was raised between both the US and Guatemala. He’s both novelist and journalist, probably a journalist first since he first made a name for himself covering the wars in Central America in the 1990’s as a contributing editor to Harper’s magazine. His 2007 book, The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?, is a nonfiction account of the assassination of Guatemalan Catholic Bishop Juan José Gerardi Conedera by the Guatemalan military, representing the culmination of years of journalistic investigation, was recently released as an HBO original documentary executive-produced by Academy Award winners George Clooney and Grant Heslov.

His most recent book is the just released novel Monkey Boy. Author of five prior novels and two other works of non-fiction, Goldman is a regular contributor to The New Yorker, writing in depth about Guatemala and Mexico, where he lives half of every year. The other half he’s teaches writing at Trinity College, in Connecticut. But his whole heart, unhypenated and undivided, is in Mexico, specifically Mexico City, where she shares his life with his wife Jovi and their little girl Azalea.

Luisa Valenzuela (argentina)

Luisa Valenzuela was born in Buenos Aires. She has published more than thirty books that include novels and collections of short stories, flash fiction and essays.  He novel  El Mañana was reissued by Editorial Interzona en 2020, along with a new Carta de Navegación. She has just finished a volumen Interior día/Interior noche (todas las pestes la peste).Widely translated and anthologized, she is the subject of numerous studies and many conferences have been devoted to her work. Her major prizes include the Premio de Cultura 400 años from the Universidad de Córdoba, the Gran Premio de Honor de la Sociedad Argentina de Escritores, the Premio León de Greiff, awarded in Colombia, and the Premio Carlos Fuentes for lifetime achievement awarded at the Guadalajara Book Fair in 2019.

She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and holds honorary doctorates from the universities of Knox, Illinois and San Martín, Buenos Aires.

Jonathan Levi (us), Moderator

U.S. writer Jonathan Levi is the author of the novels A Guide for the Perplexed and Septimania, as well as many plays and opera libretti that have been performed in Italy, the Netherlands, Georgia, the U.K. and the United States. A founding editor of Granta magazine, Levi has also written political and cultural journalism for The New York TimesThe NationConde Nast Traveler, and the Los Angeles Times Book Review. He currently lives in Rome and is Director of the Gabo Fellowship in Cultural Journalism in Cartagena, Colombia, and Nel Mezzo del Cammin, a writing workshop in Umbria, Italy. He has led a variety of workshops at Under the Volcano including journalism and memoir since 2014.

Day 4: April 21

10 am PST /12 pm MEX/CST/ 1 pm EST/ 6 pm UK/ 7 pm EUR

60 minutes

Speculative Matters

Nelly Rosario and leading voices of the Afro-futurist literary community discuss the role of speculative fiction in portraying and expanding the African diaspora experience. 
Nelly Rosario (us)

Nelly Rosario is an associate professor in the Latina/o Studies Program at Williams College and holds an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. She is the author of Song of the Water Saints: A Novel, winner of a PEN/Open Book Award. Her fiction and nonfiction work appears in various journals and anthologies, including Critical Diálogos in Latina and Latino Studies (eds. A. Ramos-Zayas, M. Rúa, NYU Press) and Teaching Black: Pedagogy, Practice, and Perspectives on Writing (eds. D. Brown, A. Lara., University of Pittsburgh Press), both forthcoming. She is co-recipient of a Creative Capital Artist Award in Literature for desveladas, a collaborative graphic-novel project of stories from the Americas, and conducts writing and research for the MIT Black History Project. Rosario is currently at work on a speculative novel about community medicine.

Sheree Renée Thomas (us)

Sheree Renée Thomas is an award-winning editor and the author of three collections, Nine Bar Blues: Stories from an Ancient Future (Third Man Books, May 2020), Sleeping Under the Tree of Life (Aqueduct Press, 2016) and Shotgun Lullabies: Stories & Poems (Aqueduct Press, 2011). She serves as the new Editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, founded in 1949 and as the Associate Editor of Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora, founded in 1975. She edited the groundbreaking anthologies, Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (Hachette, 2000) and Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, that first introduced W. E. B. Du Bois’s work as science fiction and garnered two World Fantasy Awards. Her work is widely anthologized, appearing most recently in The Big Book of Modern Fantasy (1945-2010), Marvel’s Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda, Transition, and The New York Times. her work has been supported with fellowships and residencies from Smith College as the Lucille Geier-Lakes Writer-in-Residence, the Cave Canem Foundation, Bread Loaf Environmental, the Millay Colony of Arts, VCCA, the Wallace Foundation, the New York Foundation of the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, ArtsMemphis, and others. Sheree was honored as a 2020 World Fantasy Award Finalist for her contributions to the genre and will serve as a Special Guest and a co-host of the 2021 Hugo Awards Ceremony with Malka Older at Discon III in Washington, DC.


Gabriela Damián Miravete (mexico), Moderator

Gabriela Damián Miravete was born in Mexico City. She is the co-founder of the art and science collective Cúmulo de Tesla and the literary festival Escritoras y Cuidados and Mexicona, an international festival of speculative literature. Her stories have been published in finalist anthologies for the World Fantasy Award and the Hugo Awards. She is part of the organization of FutureCon, a global literary convention on fiction and the future. She won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award (today Otherwise Award) for “Soñarán en el Jardin”, a story about a future Mexico where femicides no longer exist, which has been translated into English, Italian, French, Portuguese and Chinese.

Gabriela Damián Miravete nació en la Ciudad de México. Es cofundadora del colectivo de arte y ciencia Cúmulo de Tesla, del Encuentro de Escritoras y Cuidados y de la Mexicona, festival internacional de literatura especulativa. Sus historias han sido publicadas en antologías finalistas del World Fantasy Award y los premios Hugo. Forma parte de la organización de la FutureCon, convención literaria global sobre la ficción y el futuro. Fue ganadora del premio James Tiptree, Jr. (hoy premio Otherwise) por “Soñarán en el jardín”, historia sobre un México futuro donde los feminicidios no existen más, cuento que ha sido traducido al inglés, italiano, francés, portugués y chino.


Day 5: April 28

10 am PST /12 pm MEX/CST/ 1 pm EST/ 6 pm UK/ 7 pm EUR

60 minutes

The Art of the Interview

Novelist Adam Biles interviews writers for a living. But who interviews Adam Biles? UTV Founder and Director Magda Bogin asks Biles how he comes up with questions that take his featured authors by surprise.
Magda Bogin (ny / tepoztlán)

New York-based writer Magda Bogin is the founder and director of Under the Volcano. Novelist, translator, poet and librettist, she has taught in the writing programs of Columbia, Princeton and City College, CUNY, and was editorial writer and editorial page editor at El Diario/La Prensa, the Spanish-language daily in New York.

Bogin is a former Kellogg National Fellow and the recipient of fellowships from the NEH, NEA, NYFA and NYSCA, the Russian writers’ colony at Peredelkino and, most recently, from Château Lavigny, in Switzerland. She is the author of the novels Natalya, God’s Messenger (Scribner) and Complicity, forthcoming.

She has published numerous translations from both French and Spanish, including Isabel Allende’s House of the Spirits. Her multimedia mini-chamber opera CODEX, with music by Mexican composer Felipe Pérez Santiago, premiered at the Teatro Ocampo in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in January 2018. She is currently at work on a Spanish-language opera based on the Mexican Day of the Dead, a new novel and a collection of poems. She recently completed the Knight Center’s marathon online journalism course “Journalism in a pandemic: Covering COVID-19 now and in the future.”

Adam Biles (uk / paris)

Adam Biles is a British writer and translator based in Paris. His first novel, Feeding Time, was published by Galley Beggar Press in the UK and, in France, by Editions Grasset as Défense de nourrir les vieux. His next book is on the way. He is Literary Director at Shakespeare and Company, Paris, where he has interviewed hundreds of authors including John Berger, Zadie Smith, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Colson Whitehead, Don DeLillo, Meena Kandasamy, Karl Ove Knausgård and Rachel Cusk.