UM to Host National Book Award Nominee at Thinking Its Presence Conference

February 24, 2015

MISSOULA – The University of Montana Creative Writing Program will host its second Thinking Its Presence conference on race, creative writing and literary study, Thursday through Saturday, March 12-14. 

Claudia Rankine, a Jamaican-born poet who has been nominated for the National Book Award, will deliver the keynote address at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 14, in the University Center Theater.

Most conference events take place on the UM campus, but Shakespeare & Co. and the Missoula Art Museum also will host some of the conference readings and performances. A complete schedule is available online at registration for the three-day conference costs $60 for the public and $30 for non-UM students. The registration fee is waived for UM-affiliated faculty, students, staff and alumni. Tickets are available online at One-day tickets will be available to attend individual keynote events.

In addition to Rankine, the conference features writers and scholars Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Marilyn Chin, Thomas Sayers Ellis, William S. YellowRobe and Ofelia Zepeda, among many others.

Thinking Its Presence examines creative writing and scholarship that rethinks the complex and inseparable links between literary forms and the racialized thinking, processes and histories that have shaped this country since its founding. The conference brings together the discipline and teaching of creative writing with perspectives from critical race theory, poetics, performance studies, literary theory, literary history, ethnic literatures and Native American and indigenous studies.

The conference title comes from scholar Dorothy Wang’s book “Thinking Its Presence: Form, Race and Subjectivity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry.” Wang’s book makes the larger case “that aesthetic forms are inseparable from social, political and historical contexts when it comes to writing and reception of poetry.”  

In addition to being supported by many campuswide programs, departments and centers, as well as local Missoula businesses and organizations, Thinking Its Presence is sponsored by UM’s College of Humanities & Sciences and the Creative Writing Program.

For more information email English Professor Prageeta Sharma at or visit the Thinking Its Presence website at The website includes a full list of sponsors and donors. 

Contact: Karin Schalm, UM Creative Writing Program coordinator, 406-243-5267,