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Lafayette’s celebration of National Poetry Month includes readings from renowned poets and college virtuosi and free ice cream. Events begin with a reading by Jay Parini ’70 at 1:15 p.m. today in the Public Program Room of Skillman Library.

All of the events are free and open to the public.

Sponsored by Friends of Skillman Library, Parini will read from his new book The Art of Subtraction: New and Selected Poems (2005). His reading is part of the rededication of the David Bishop Skillman Library. Parini chose the library to be the repository of his papers.

“Jay Parini is a powerful and prolific poet and novelist,” says Lee Upton, writer-in-residence, professor of English, and National Poetry Month organizer, “and we are especially delighted that his reading not only celebrates the new Skillman Library but opens National Poetry Month at Lafayette.”

Events continue next week with the Jean Corrie poetry reading and ice cream social at 4:10 p.m. Wednesday, April 6, in the Faculty Dining Room, Marquis Hall. The Corrie competition includes entries from first-year students, sophomores, and juniors and is supported by the Academy of American Poets and Department of English.

Danielle Pollaci ’06 (Trenton, N.J.), an English major, won the Corrie competition for “Ignition.” Honorable mention went to Jacquelynn Molzon ’08 (Saratoga, Calif.) for “Time’s Season” and Marquis Scholar Jaclyn Smith ’07 (Saugus, Calif.) for “Bodies.”

“‘Ignition’ is a very special poem for me because I wrote it after reading a New York Times article about a woman’s suicide in Afghanistan,” says Pollaci. “The woman, Homa, committed suicide because she felt that it was her only escape from a life of slavery to her husband and in-laws The end of the article said that Homa’s death was a call to do more to help Afghanistan achieve equal human rights for everyone. I thought that by writing this poem I was doing my part.”

The students being honored will read their poems before Barbara Crooker, featured poet and judge of the competition, presents a full-scale reading. Crooker joins previous Corrie judges from eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey who were chosen to represent the area’s active community of poets.

“Barbara Crooker is a poet whose work is vivid and accessible,” Upton says. “She’s gifted with a ready wit and great warmth. Wisely, Garrison Keillor has often chosen her poetry for readings on National Public Radio.”

As part of Lafayette’s Paul Robeson conference, Saul Williams will stage a spoken-word performance from 1:30-3:20 p.m. Friday, April 8, in the Marlo Room, Farinon College Center. Gladstone A. Hutchinson, dean of studies, will moderate.

“Saul Williams is one of the most dynamic, compelling, and versatile spoken word performers. We’re immensely lucky to have him on campus as part of the Paul Robeson conference and during National Poetry Month,” says Upton.

Winners of the MacKnight Black competition will read their poems at 7:30 p.m. in the Kirby Hall of Civil Rights auditorium, following a question-and-answer session with Mark Doty, featured poet and judge of the competition, at 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, in the Faculty Dining Room, Marquis Hall. The competition is sponsored by the Department of English.

Alexis Siemons ’05 (Moorestown, N.J.), who has a personalized major in communications and culture, won the MacKnight Black competition for “Ghostwriter.”

“I was truly and honestly shocked when I heard I had won,” says Siemons. “I enjoy writing very much and have never had a specific piece honored in a competition so I was taken aback since I entered the competition with no expectations whatsoever. The first thing that came to mind when thinking about winning was having the chance to meet Mark Doty and discuss writing with him and receive a critique of my work – that is what I am most excited about.”

Honorable mention went to Toni Ahrens ’05 (Hamilton, N.Y.), a double major in English and psychology, for “Sea Shell,” Michelle Marinucci ’05 (Cinnaminson, N.J.), a biology major, for “Inlet Erosion,” and Trustee Scholar Erin Mirocha ’05 (Minnetonka, Minn.), a double major in English and psychology, for “Re(a)d: dy(e)ing.”

Open to 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.

“The MacKnight Black poetry competition has been judged by poets of international distinction,” says Upton. “Mark Doty is one of the most distinguished of American poets. He combines a broad formal range with an ability to convey complex emotions. His poems are both luminous and compassionate.”

The month’s celebration will conclude with a poetry reading by creative writing students and open mic session that begins at 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 26, in Gilbert’s Annex.

Parini is 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.

He has written five volumes of poetry, Singing in Time (1972), Anthracite Country (1982), Town Life (1988), House of Days (1998), and The Art of Subtraction: New and Selected Poems (2005). 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.

He is a former Guggenheim Fellow, Visiting Fellow at Christ Church College, Oxford University, and Robert Frost Library Fellow at Amherst College. Parini was presented with an honorary doctorate from Lafayette in 1996.

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. 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.

Author of more than 1,200 published poems, Crooker was nominated for a Grammy in 1997 for her work on the audio version of Grow Old Along With Me – The Best is Yet to Be. She has written 10 chapbooks, including Ordinary Life, 2001 ByLine ChapBook winner; Impressionism, 2004 Grayson Books Chapbook winner; and Radiance, 2005 Word Press First Book winner.

Seven of Crooker’s poems were read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac. She has won the 2004 Pennsylvania Center for the Book Poetry in Public Places Poster Competition, 2003 Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, 2003 “April Is the Cruelest Month” award from poets and writers, 2000 New Millenium Writing’s Y2K competition, and 1997 Karamu poetry award. Recipient of fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Crooker was nominated for the Pushcart Prize 17 times and received an award from the National Education Association.

Williams co-wrote and starred in Slam, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival and Camera d’Or at Cannes Film Festival. He graduated from Morehouse College.

Now residing in Los Angeles, Williams has published books of poetry including said the shotgun to the head (2003), She (1999), and The Seventh Octave (1997); performed with other renowned hip-hop artists and the legendary poets Allen Ginsberg and Sonia Sanchez; and recorded two CDs, Amethyst Rock Star and Saul Williams.

Doty has received fellowships from the Guggenheim, Ingram Merrill, Rockefeller, and Whiting foundations and National Endowment for the Arts. His work has been described by as an “elegant, often melancholy, verse (that) offers a rare combination of rural and metropolitan images.”

He is the author of award-winning poetry books Atlantis (1995), winner of the Ambassador Book Award, Bingham Poetry Prize, and Lambda Literary Award; My Alexandria (1993), chosen for the National Poetry Series by Philip Levine, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, Britain’s T.S. Eliot Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and National Book Award finalist; and Heaven’s Coast: A Memoir (1996), winner of the PEN Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction and Notable Book Award by The New York Times Book Review.

Doty also wrote Source (2002), Firebird (1999), Sweet Machine (1998), Bethlehem in Broad Daylight (1991), and Turtle, Swan (1987). He is an English professor at the University of Houston and received a bachelor’s degree from Drake University and a master of fine arts from Goddard College.

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