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Lafayette’s celebration of National Poetry Month will continue with highly acclaimed poet, novelist, and biographer Jay Parini, a 1970 Lafayette graduate, reading and discussing his poetry and answering questions at noon Monday, April 17, in the Marlo Room of Lafayette’s Farinon College Center. The program is free and open to the public.

At 8 p.m. that evening, Parini will speak on “The Art of Biography” in the Marlo Room at the annual dinner of the Friends of Skillman Library, focusing on his recent biography Robert Frost: A Life, winner of the 1999 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize.

His visit is sponsored by the Friends of Skillman Library and the Department of English.

“I’m looking forward to returning to Lafayette, for I have many warm memories of the college,” says Parini, who maintains strong ties with Lafayette, which awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1996, and especially with his mentor, James P. Lusardi, the Francis A. March Professor Emeritus of English.

Parini selected Lafayette’s Skillman Library to be the repository of his papers. The materials, housed in Skillman’s Special Collections, include manuscripts and galleys of a number of his books; additional published and unpublished manuscripts; copies of published articles, essays, and interviews; and other materials. The Parini Papers also contain taped interviews with Umberto Eco, Graham Greene, Alberto Moravia, Elaine Steinbeck, and Gore Vidal. There are also letters from friends and associates, including Robert Penn Warren, Malcolm Cowley, Richard Eberhart, Seamus Heaney, Erica Jong, Stanley Kunitz, Philip Levine, Robin Morgan, Robert Pinsky, and Anne Stevenson.

Parini is the Axinn Professor of English at Middlebury College, where he has taught since 1982. He gained international recognition as an insightful biographer early in his career when a critical study, Theodore Roethke: An American Romantic, published in 1979, was short-listed for a Pulitzer Prize.

Parini has written four volumes of poetry, Singing in Time (1972), Anthracite Country (1982), Town Life (1988), and House of Days (1998). He also has authored five novels — The Love Run (1980), The Patch Boys (1986), The Last Station: A Novel of Tolstoy’s Last Year (1990), Bay of Arrows (1992), and Benjamin’s Crossing (1997) — and biographies of Frost and John Steinbeck (1995). He also developed the textbook An Invitation to Poetry (1988).

Parini has edited or coedited numerous collections of poetry, fiction, and essays, including The Norton Book of American Autobiography (1999), The Columbia History of American Poetry (1993), and The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry (1995). He is also a frequent contributor of poems, critical reviews and essays to language and literary journals including The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, Poetry, The New Republic, The Nation, The New York Times Book Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Yale Review, and others.

Before joining the faculty at Middlebury, Parini taught at Dartmouth College from 1975-1982. He is a former Guggenheim Fellow and Visiting Fellow at Christ Church College, Oxford University. In the fall Parini was Robert Frost Library Fellow at Amherst College.

Parini grew up in the anthracite coal mining country of northeastern Pennsylvania. In his senior year at Lafayette he authored an honors thesis that examined the aesthetic and poetic method of Gerard Manley Hopkins and was the recipient of the College’s MacKnight Black Poetry Prize. After receiving his bachelor of arts degree, Parini continued his education at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where he had studied during his junior year at Lafayette, and received his Ph.D. in 1975. He published his first book, a collection of poems, Singing in Time, while at St. Andrews.

Parini is married to Devon Jersild, a writer, and has three sons. The family lives in Weybridge, Vt.

Categorized in: Alumni Profiles