Poetry-in-the-Round opens the ‘Gates’

As a new semester begins, so does the new season of Poetry-in-the-Round. Now in its fourth decade, Poetry-in-the-Round annually brings compelling and celebrated writers to Seton Hall University year to read and discuss their works with students and community members.

Dr. Nathan Oates, professor of English and director of the Creative Writing major, continues his first year as director of the program, which typically invites six speakers to campus per year. The format is interactive, with a 30- to 40-minute reading followed by a 15-minute question and answer session with students.

Students should not be confused by the name of the event; Poetry-in-the-Round is sure to appeal to admirers of different literary genres.

Despite having “poetry” in its moniker, the program invites all types of writers, as is evidenced by this semester’s upcoming visitors.

The next couple months will see two fiction writers – David Gates and Deborah Eisenberg – and one poet – Cathy Park Hong – come to the Hall.

When asked how future invitees are selected, Oates explained, “The excellence of the creative work, be it poetry, fiction, non-fiction or drama is the primary consideration. All the writers we bring are excellent writers. We also look to bring writers who are good performers, who will entertain and engage the audience.”

This attempt to engage the audience appears successful, as Poetry-in-the-Round is characterized by high student attendance. At least 100 people came to each fall event, and the October reading with E.L. Doctorow was particularly popular, with over 200 audience members.

The next installment of Poetry-in-the-Round will occur on Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. in the Chancellor’s Suite. The guest will be fiction writer David Gates. Oates had nothing but high praise for Gates, who he described as “one of the most interesting and exciting contemporary American fiction writers.”

He is the author of two novels, “Jernigan” and “Preston Falls,” as well as the short-story collection, “The Wonders of the Invisible World.” Oates also said that Gates’ “fiction goes straight at the darkest parts of human experience – despair, violence, isolation – but his writing is also infused with humor and wit.”

The upcoming events are sprinkled throughout the semester: Hong will share her work on March 17 in the Chancellor’s Suite and Eisenberg will appear March 30 in the Walsh Library. Each event is free of charge.

Oates is pleased with the progress Poetry-in-the-Round has made this year.

“I had the good fortune of taking over the program from Dr. John Wargacki, who had maintained the excellence of the program that has been its hallmark for decades,” he said.

“I’ve been impressed by the enthusiasm of the students at the readings and the excellent attendance we’ve had at the events. Best of all has been the personal thrill of being able to introduce the Seton Hall community to some of the best living writers in America,” Oates said.

Students are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to hear these authors share from their works and possibly have a more moving experience than simply reading their words off a page.

Cathryn Wiatroski can be reached at cathryn.wiatroski@student.shu.edu.

Author: Staff Writer

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