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Lafayette’s celebration of National Poetry Month will begin April 15 with student winners of the College’s MacKnight Black Poetry Competition joining American Book Award recipient Tino Villanueva in a poetry reading at 8 p.m. in the auditorium of Kirby Hall of Civil Rights.

Sponsored by the department of English, the event is free and open to the public. Open to Lafayette seniors, the 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.

Katherine Pelletier, a double major in English and art from Hingham, Mass., received first prize in the MacKnight Black competition for “The Journey.”

Honorable mentions were won by Seth Thomas, an A.B. engineering major from Lodi, N.Y., for “Those Flying Dreams”; Daniel Herman, an English major from Brookfield, Conn., for “december fourteenth blues”; and Liza Zitelli, an English major from Bergenfield, N.J., for “Last Night’s Fraternity Party.”

Villanueva, who served as guest judge for the competition, will follow with readings from his own works.

“Tino Villanueva should be particularly attractive to students because of the dynamism and compassion of his vision,” says Lee Upton, an accomplished poet and critic and the first Lafayette faculty member to hold the title writer-in-residence.

On Tuesday, April 23, the winners of Lafayette’s annual Jean Corrie Poetry Competition will read their work at a 4:10 p.m. ice cream social in the Faculty Dining Room, Marquis Hall. The public is invited to attend free of charge.

Sophomores Matthew Parrott and Molefi Asante earned first prize in the Corrie competition, which is open to first-year students, sophomores, and juniors.

Parrott, a government and law major from Columbia, Md., won for “Like a Dali clock, I work.” The winning poem for Asante, an International Affairs major from Philadelphia, Pa., is titled “Like Water Running off My Back.”

Honorable mention went to sophomores Creighton Conner and Olivia Tusinski, Conner of Lewisburg, Pa., was cited for “The Poppy Cake” and Tusinski, an anthropology and sociology major from Bernardston, Mass., was honored for an untitled poem.

The judge of the competition, Beth Seetch, lecturer in English and coordinator of Lafayette’s College Writing Program, will also read her work.

“I am fascinated by the qualities the two winning poems have in common,” says Seetch. “Both Matthew Parrott and Molefi Asante demonstrate an eagerness to play with words and imagery while at the same time taking their language seriously. By ‘seriously,’ I mean that these poets’ playfulness leads them to explore the richness of our American language, to find out more about its history and how it works, and then to use that complexity in their poems. Both poems employ subject matter that, in other hands, could have fallen into cliché.”

“And don’t both honorably mentioned poems know how to end well?” adds Seetch. “Creighton Conner’s poem is constructed with the care and patience of craft. Olivia Tusinski knows how to make free verse fulfill its organic form. I look forward to seeing and hearing more work by these four poets in The Marquis literary magazine and all the other spaces for poetry on campus.”

In the fall, Seetch taught an interdisciplinary seminar called Why Poetry Matters for first-year students. She was conference co-chair for the 18th National Conference for Peer Tutors in Writing at Muhlenberg College in November. She also was among the organizers last year of the annual Lehigh Valley Association for Independent Colleges Fall Workshop. She earned her master’s degree from the University of Colorado.

A recipient of a Ford Foundation Fellowship, Tino Villenueva is the founder of Imagine Publishers and editor of Imagine: International Chicano Poetry Journal. Other collections of poetry he has authored include Hay Otra Voz Poems (1972), Shaking off the Dark (1984), Cronica de mis anos peoros (1987), and Scene from the Movie GIANT (1993), which won a 1994 American Book Award. During that same year, Chronicle of my Worst Years/Cronica de mis anos peores appeared in a bilingual edition. His work has been published in several anthologies, as well as high school and college textbooks. He also has served as editorial consultant for Houghton Mifflin.

“Widely recognized as one of the most important Chicano voices, Villanueva has the reputation of being demanding in his critical judgments yet generous with his attention; and his voice is increasingly known for being both cosmopolitan and democratic,” writes The Texas Observer. “Reginald Gibbons, former editor of TriQuarterly and an award-winning novelist and poet, recently wrote that Villanueva exhibits what W.E.B. Dubois called ‘double consciousness,’ the deep knowledge of two different cultures in a society.”

Villanueva has been invited to give lectures and poetry recitals by UCLA, Stanford University, Indiana University, University of Texas at Austin and Permian Basin, University of Pennsylvania, University of Erlangen (Germany), University of Gothenberg (Sweden), University of Venice (Italy), and Boston, Yale, Columbia, and Harvard universities.

Villanueva has painted since 1973. His work has been exhibited in El Paso, Berlin, Boston, and most recently, on the covers of Nexos, Green Mountains Review, and TriQuarterly. His chapbook Primera causa/First Cause (1999) was produced in bilingual format.

Born in San Marcos, Texas, Villanueva had a diversity of work experiences before his formal college education, ranging from migrant work to assembly-line construction of furniture in his hometown. After two years as a U.S. Army supply clerk in the Panama Canal Zone, he returned to the U.S. and earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and English in 1969. He received a master’s from SUNY-Buffalo in 1971 and a Ph.D. from Boston University in 1981.

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