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As part of Lafayette College’s celebration of National Poetry Month, prize-winning poet Campbell McGrath will host the MacKnight Black Poetry Reading at 8 p.m., Tuesday, April 25, at the Williams Center for the Arts.

The event, sponsored by the department of English, is free and open to the public. This year’s winners of the annual MacKnight Black Poetry Competition, open to Lafayette seniors, will read their prize-winning pieces. McGrath, who served as guest judge for the competition, will follow with readings from his own works.

Rachel Dresher of Hamburg, Pa., took top honors in this year’s contest for her poem “Self-Mutilation.” Honorable mention went to Emily Brown of Santa Rosa, Calif., for “The River”; Shoshana Cohen of Bridgewater, N.J., for “The Creator”; Lermin Kwan of Hong Kong for “Soup”; Gianna Locascio of Atlantic Highlands, N.J., for “When”; and Christopher Tague of Stamford, Conn., for “Saturation.”

Open to seniors, the annual competition is named for MacKnight Black, a 1916 graduate of Lafayette, who at the time of his death in 1931 was one of America’s most significant poets.

In 1996 McGrath won the prestigious Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for his third volume of poetry, Spring Comes to Chicago, published by The Ecco Press. Presented by the Claremont Graduate School, the award recognizes a work by an emerging poet, “one who is past the very beginning but who has not yet reached the acknowledged pinnacle of his or her career.”

His most recent volumes of poetry is Road Atlas: Prose and Other Poems (Ecco, 1999). Earlier works include American Noise (Ecco, 1993) and Capitalism (Wesleyan University Press, 1990). He also translated Wasps by Aristophanes for the Penn Greek Drama Series published by University of Pennsylvania Press in 1999.

A professor at Florida International University since 1993, McGrath was the recipient last year of a “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. MacArthur Fellows are free to use the awards, which range from $200,000 to $375,000 over five years, as they please. The foundation neither requires nor expects specific products or reports from MacArthur Fellows.

McGrath’s many other awards include a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress in association with the Poet Laureate (1998-99), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1998), the Cohen Prize from Emerson College (1997), the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching from Florida International University (1997), the Pushcart Prize (1992), an Illinois Arts Council Literary Achievement Grant (1991), three Academy of American Poets Prizes (1984, 1985, and 1987), and other honors.

McGrath has served as editor of Chicago Literary Review, poetry editor of Columbia: A Magazine of Poetry and Prose, assistant editor of TriQuarterly, and director of the Hyde Park Poetry Series. Since 1993, he has been program director for Writers on the Bay.

More than 50 of McGrath’s poems have been published in The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, The Paris Review, The New Yorker, Harvard Review, and other publications. His poetry also is represented in more than a dozen anthologies.

McGrath earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago with special and departmental honors in 1984 and a master’s in fine arts from Columbia University in 1988. From 1986 to 1991, he filled teaching positions at the Teachers and Writers Collaborative, New York; Columbia University, New York; North Park College, Chicago; and the University of Chicago. In 1992-93, he served as director of the Glencoe Poetry Workshop while instructing at Columbia College in Chicago and Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

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