Art Song, Chamber Operas, and More: Our AWP 2019 Panel

As we look ahead to our fifth Art Song Contest (details coming this summer), I am chairing the  panel “From Words to Music: Writers on Collaborating with Composers” at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Portland, OR.  This page  will serve as a companion resource for our panel, as well as an ongoing resource for anyone interested in contemporary collaborations between writers and composers. Or as a library for our readers who simply love art song! Don’t know what art song is? An overview of Art Song is presented by Eric Malmquist, producer of our first three art song contest performances and recordings, here. 

Check out the art song recordings in our archives, featuring composers Brian Baxter, Luke Gullickson, Elizabeth Kelly, and Randall West in settings of poems by Katie Peterson, Jill McDonough, Richie Hoffman and Trenton Pollard. –RMF, Editor-in-Chief

From Words to Music: Writers on Collaborating with Composers,   E146, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1, AWP Conference, Portland, OR. March 29, 4:30 pm.

LLOYD SCHWARTZ—poet, teacher, and critic—received the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism for his music reviews and has just been appointed Poet Laureate of Somerville, Massachusetts. He teaches in the MFA program at UMass Boston and has published four poetry collections, including Little Kisses (Chicago, 2017). His poems have been set to music by such distinguished composers as Mohammed Fairouz, Scott Wheeler, Michael Gandolfi, and John Harbison and recorded on the Naxos and Albany labels. He was recently invited to speak to Renée Fleming’s art-song master-class about what poets want from musical performances of their work.

Listen to a few setting of  Lloyd Schwartz’s  poems here:

Mohammed Fairouz, No Orpheus #1 and No Orpheus #2 and No Orpheus #3

Scott Wheeler, Light Enough

Matti Kovler, “Leaves”

JESSICA MURPHY MOO wrote the libretto for the opera An American Dream, composed by Jack Perla, which had its world premiere at Seattle Opera in 2015 and was reprised there in 2017. The work has gone to Lyric Opera of Chicago, Maine Opera, Anchorage Opera, and Virginia Opera. She is now working on an opera for youth audiences, a co-commission from Seattle and Chicago opera companies. Murphy Moo was a 2016 fellow at Tapestry Opera’s Librettist Composer Laboratory Workshop. She also writes fiction: stories have appeared in The AtlanticImage, and Memorious. She is the editor of Portland magazine.

Listen to excerpts from the Seattle Opera’s performance of Jessica Murphy Moo libretto  An American Dream here and find teaching resources for An American Dream here.

JANINE JOSEPH was born in the Philippines. She is the author of Driving without a License, winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize and 2018 da Vinci Eye award, named an Honorable Mention by the 2018 Sheila Margaret Motton Book Prize, and finalist for the 2018 Eric Hoffer Award and 2017 Oklahoma Book Award. Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in The AtlanticWorld Literature Today, The Poem’s Country: Place & Poetic Practice, Kenyon Review Online, Best New Poets, Best American Experimental WritingZócalo Public SquareVIDA: Women in Literary Arts, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series, and elsewhere. A librettist, her commissioned work for the Houston Grand Opera/HGOco include What Wings They Were: The Case of Emeline“On This Muddy Water”: Voices from the Houston Ship Channel, and From My Mother’s Mother. Additionally, her poems have been set to music by acclaimed composers Melissa Dunphy (“American DREAMers: Stories of Immigration”) and Reinaldo Moya (“DREAM Song”). Her honors include a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship, an Inprint/Barthelme Fellowship in Poetry, a Robert M. Hogge Faculty Teaching Award, a Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center Fellowship for Collaboration Among the Arts, a PAWA Manuel G. Flores Prize, an Academy of American Poets prize, as well as scholarships and fellowships from Kundiman and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Janine is a co-organizer for Undocupoets and serves on the Advisory Board for the Center for Poets & Writers in Tulsa. She is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Oklahoma State University.

Listen to samples of Janine Joseph’s work here:

From My Mother’s Mother. “Original libretto commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera/HGOco for the “Song of Houston: East + West” series. Music composed by Jeeyoung Kim. Premiered Nov. 2012. Listen  Scene 5 and Prologue.

“Between Chou and the Butterfly.” Poem adapted for “DREAM Songs.” Music composed by Reinaldo Moya for the Schubert Club. Premiered April 2018. Listen.

“More milk, more milk makes it better.” Poem adapted for “American DREAMers: Stories of Immigration.” Music composed by Melissa Dunphy. Premiered June 2018. Watch (7:02 – 11:00).

REBECCA MORGAN FRANK is the author of three collections of poems: The Spokes of Venus and Sometimes We’re All Living in a Foreign Country, both from Carnegie Mellon University Press, and Little Murders Everywhere, a finalist for the 2013 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and her poems have appeared such places as The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares,  Orion, and elsewhere. She is currently the Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bowling Green State University. Her poems have been set and performed across the US by composers Eric Malmquist, Aaron Stepp, Brian Baxter, and Mara Gibson. Her digital music collaborations with Aaron Stepp have been exhibited at Brentwood Arts Exchange and at the University of Virginia’s Technosonics XVI: Music and Contemplation Festival. As editor in chief of Memorious: a journal of new verse & fiction, she has spearheaded four art song concerts, bringing together poets and composers for original works performed such places as the Poetry Foundation in Chicago and the University of Nottingham in the UK, with recordings published at

Listen to a few of of Rebecca Morgan Frank’s  collaborations  here, or visit her website for more:

Composer Eric Malmquist:For the Sin of Bossiness. Performed by La Caccina Women’s Vocal Ensemble, 2018. And “Payatas.” . Performed by Soprano Alison Wahl and Chicago Q Ensemble, 2013.

Composer Aaron Stepp: “Diptych.”  and “Junkyard Temples.” 

Her digital collaborations with Aaron Stepp can be found here: “ghazal::unbound” and Solanum.


Visit for original poetry, fiction, interviews, and art songs.


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