My most recent book, The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory, was published by Carroll and Graf and received the Outstanding Book Award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights.
I recently completed In The Province of the Gods, a new book of creative nonfiction that uses the prism of being a gaijin, a foreigner, with a disability in Japan, to look at how a particular culture views difference. I received a grant in innovative literature from the Creative Capital Foundation, and grants from the Toronto Arts Council and Ontario Arts Council to support the completion of the book.
I wrote the libretto for "The Memory Stone," a chamber opera, commissioned by Houston Grand Opera. "The Memory Stone," composed by Marty Regan and directed by Matthew Ozawa, premiered at Asia Society Texas Center in Houston in April, 2013.
I have been a Fulbright Scholar to Japan, as well as a Creative Arts Fellow of the Japan-US Friendship Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts. While in Japan, I wrote "In the Gardens of Japan," a sequence of poems, and collaborated with composers Takechi Yuka and Takahashi Kumiko, and singer Kimula Mika, in setting these poems for traditional Japanese instruments and voice, culminating in concerts in Tokyo, Yokohama, and New York. The poems were also printed as a limited edition Japanese tenugui (traditional Japanese cloth towel) designed by Yasuda Yugo.
My experience in Japan has seeped into my work, renewing my writing and thinking in both content and form. Transforming one's experience into writing that is meaningful to readers, finding the intersection between one's life and the world in which one lives, are what I always keep in mind, both as a writer and a teacher of writing.
As a teacher, I hope to guide my students through the process of writing what is difficult to write by encouraging them to wrestle with what viscerally engages them, to keep the stakes high, and to hone the crucial editorial skills once the initial creative arc has been forged. I aim to help each student find and develop the voice that lifts the work off the page into the reader's psyche.
I stress the importance of reading deeply and widely, and of gaining familiarity with other media, especially visual art and music. No matter the subject, no matter the genre, I am concerned with the organic: how form and content reflect, affect, and interact with each other; how details inform the whole; how the entire work relates to its collected parts.
Much of my work the past fifteen years has been concerned with the body, as both subject and metaphor; as the place where the personal becomes the universal; as the site of memory, language, and desire.
In 2012, I received a Canada Council for the Arts Disability Arts Travel Grant to Helsinki, Finland, where I researched the work of painter Helene Schjerbeck at her centennial exhibition at the Ateneum National Museum and met with Duv Teatern, a theatre troupe of primarily developmentally disabled performers.
In addition to the above, my work includes: Body, Remember: A Memoir (Dutton, 1997; Plume paperback, 1998; new edition, University of Wisconsin Press, 2003); Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out, (Plume, 1997), the anthology of writers with disabilities which I edited; Desert Walking: Poems (Advocado Press, 2000); Anesthesia: Poems (Advocado Press, 1996); The Healing Notebooks (Open Books, 1990), a sequence of poems for which I received the Gregory Kolovakos Award for AIDS Writing; an earlier book of poems Night After Night (Beaux-Arts Press, 1984); and the play A Human Equation, which premiered at La Mama E.T.C. in New York City.
My work continues with Works on Paper, a new book of poems. My website is www.kennyfries.com.