Poetry-in-the-Round gets new director

In the fall of 2010, Nathan Oates, head of the creative writing department, will be taking over as director of Poetry-in-the-Round.

John Wargacki, director of Seton Hall’s nationally recognized Poetry-in-the-Round reading program, will step down as the spring semester comes to a close. The program invites esteemed authors to share literary works of art with the university and the surrounding community.

Poetry-in-the-Round boasts a tradition spanning over four decades and for the last six years. Wargacki, an English professor, has been the lifeblood of the program.

“Personally, this has been one of the most rewarding parts of my life at Seton Hall and it’s something I’ve never gotten used to in the respect of ever taking it for granted,” he said.

“It was challenging and very exciting,” he said regarding his initial feelings when asked to take on the reading series. “I began learning how to contact agencies, readers; sometimes directly and through other professors and colleagues.”

As director, Wargacki has brought in several well-respected writers including novelist Jonathan Franzen, poet Adrienne Rich, playwright David Henry Hwang and poet John Ashbery.

“He is largely considered to be one of the greatest living American poets,” Wargacki said of Ashbery, who read for the program in the fall 2009 semester as the first Giroux reader in the series.

“We received a donation from world renowned publisher Robert Giroux and we have Giroux readers that are sponsored by that donation,” he said.

Robert Giroux was T.S. Eliot’s American editor and came very close to publishing Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” Giroux became associated with Seton Hall through a classmate of Msgr. Sheeran and, when he passed away in 2008 at 94, he left Poetry-in-the-Round with a sizeable donation.

Upon receiving the directorship, Wargacki said he knew Poetry-in-the-Round was something he had to take good care of.

“I never left a reading that I didn’t think was wonderful in its own way, successful in its own way and not always in terms of how many people came, but the reaction of the people who did come,” he said. “Large crowds, small crowds, it didn’t matter; I always received tremendous feedback. I remember driving home thinking, ‘wow, this is a great job.'”

In a world of last minute phone calls, hotel arrangements, contract signing with authors and setting up dinners, Wargacki said he had the utmost support from the English department.

“It’s a team effort,” he said. “The best part about this job is making sure that every reader has the most positive experience at Seton Hall so they can say Seton Hall is a great place to read.”

“I’m thrilled for Nathan. He’s going to be a tremendous director, I have no doubt,” Wargacki said. “I know he will leave his mark on the program.”

Oates has already set up a few readings for the upcoming fall semester with poet Jeffrey Harrison, Pulitzer Prize finalist and fiction writer E.L. Doctorow, who will be the second Giroux reader, and poet Major Jackson.

“I’m honored to become director of Poetry-in-the-Round and to be following the excellent work Dr. Wargacki has done,” Oates said. “I think he’s done a great job of connecting this program to the community and also to the larger literary world.”

Oates said one of the great advantages Seton Hall has, in terms of this reading series, is its proximity to New York, which is the heart of literary culture in America.

“As incoming director, what I hope to maintain is its national prominence and to bring to Seton Hall the best living literary artists in order to give students a chance to see literature that is alive and part of the contemporary world,” he said.

“Poetry-in-the-Round is part of being immersed in the arts; one of the things the university has always done and should always do,” Wargacki said.

Taylor Korsak can be reached at taylor.korsak@student.shu.edu.

Author: Staff Writer

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