As a special presentation by Seton Hall’s Poetry-in-the-Round program, celebrated American poet John Ashbery will be reading selections of his work on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. in the McNulty Amphitheatre.
In the thick of fall semester and fully immersed in the world of weekly academic reports and excessive required reading, it might seem that the last thing one would want to do is voluntarily attend a poetry reading. But, take note: even if you are feeling burned out, this is a way to rejuvenate your senses.
What’s better for poetry than hearing it from the mouth of the originator? Even if you’re not an English major, poetry read aloud—as it was intended to be—is an experience worthy to behold. Poetry is by no means a dead art; seeing it in this context makes it all the more alive.
Born in 1927 in northern New York, John Ashbery took interest in the arts early in his life, writing and painting often. After studying at Harvard College and Columbia University, he went on to work as a translator, art critic, and eventually as a professor at Brooklyn College and Bard College, where he now maintains a position while continuing his poetic work.
He has written numerous books of poetry, notably 1975’s “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” for which he was awarded the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize.
His poetry perhaps far from what one would expect, is very modern, enjambment and a natural syntax are the norm. The work is easily accessible yet still free to one’s own interpretation. Naturally, due to Ashbery’s interests, much of his influence comes from the visual arts.
For the poet, this visit is a return to the Poetry-in-the-Round stage, but it is one that is very much anticipated.
“Ashbery is in many circles considered one of, if not the greatest living American poet,” said Dr. John Wargacki, professor in the English department and current program director of Poetry-in-the-Round.
Formed in the late 1960s, Poetry-in-the-Round is a Seton Hall-sponsored program that presents events featuring readers from various fields. The program was founded and heavily supported by John Harrington, former English professor at Seton Hall.
“He really built the program up from nothing,” sais Wargacki. “He knew most of the readers on a personal basis.”
Due to his diverse connections, Harrington was able to get in contact with and bring in big names to present their work at Poetry-in-the-Round events. While the responsible directing torch has been passed several times since his departure, the program continues to gain attention and to draw in eminent authors. Wargacki became program director in the fall of 2004.
“Now with the reputation of Poetry-in-the-Round, we do get these very large figures—these major readers and writers in many different areas,” Wargacki said.
Despite the program’s name, speakers featured at Poetry-in-the-Round events are not limited to solely poets. Events are frequently co-sponsored by other departments as a means of further enrichment in particular fields.
In the program’s history, readers have included actor and writer George Plimpton, writer Joyce Carol Oates, novelist John Barth, and poet C.K. Williams.
In recent years, readers such as Adrienne Rich, Sharon Olds, Jonathan Franzen, Jorie Graham, and Azar Nafisi have also been featured.
Bonnie Falconer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.