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Poet Gerald Stern, winner of the 1998 National Book Award in Poetry for This Time, will read from his latest collection, American Sonnets, 4:10 p.m. Wednesday in Skillman Library.

The event is the opening reception for Portraits of Poets, an exhibit of photographs by Ted Rosenberg on display at Lafayette’s Skillman Library through July 31. Free and open to the public, the reception and exhibit are sponsored by Friends of Skillman Library.

Stern’s 12th collection, American Sonnets is comprised of 59 “Stern sonnets” – 20 or so lines rather than the traditional 14. Using the events of his life as starting points, Stern moves from the personal to the mystic as he takes on or is taken over by critical or amusing moments.

“I felt like an archeologist,” he says. “I bent to a task that had the earnestness and seriousness of a dig.”

In revisiting his past, Stern deals with time and loss, the dichotomy of light and darkness, and the possibility of joy. The poems speak of a personality immersed in life, passionately involved with the self and the self in the world.

“Gerald Stern is a romantic with a sense of humor, an Orphic voice living inside history, a sometimes comic, sometimes tragic visionary[helping] us to live in the world as it is, converting our losses, transforming death and sadness into singing,” says Edward Hirsch.

The exhibition, which opened Feb. 3, is curated by Martin Desht. It combines a visual and literary approach to the poets by including a poetry selection from each one represented.

After retiring from a successful career as a corporate executive, Rosenberg immersed himself in the contemporary American literary scene and began to photograph American poets. His work combines the formality of the professional portrait with the warmth of unexpected intimacy.

Exhibit hours are 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. For more information, call 610-330-5148.

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