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Writer expresses love for family through poetry

On Feb. 5, Angela Alaimo O’Donnell presented at the Poetry-in-the-Round speakers series in the Chancellor’s Suite. O’Donnell read excerpts from her published works to students and faculty at Seton Hall.

According to her website, some of her publications include “Still Pilgrim,” “Moving House,” “Waking My Mother,” “Mortal Blessings” and “Flannery O’Connor: Fiction Fired by Faith,” which won first prize from the Association of Catholic Publishers.

Photo courtesy of Angela O’Donnell

O’Donnell read from a number of her books, including a book in progress of poems about Flannery O’Connor, and several of her published poetry.

She said she particularly enjoyed reading from her work “Saint Sinatra,” because it gave her audience the opportunity to think about the necessity of beauty in their lives.

O’Donnell said she enjoyed reading poems from her first book, “Moving House.” The poems were mostly about O’Donnell’s working-class Italian-American family and the place where she grew up: Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“My family was, and is, very colorful, full of strange characters and dysfunction of various kinds,” O’Donnell said in an email. “But it is also a collection of people who love each other very much, despite our apparent differences. That love redeems the strange and often sad circumstances of my growing up and so do the poems. Family stories are stories we need to tell in order to discover who we are, and poetry gives us a language for that.”

O’Donnell said that the students were attentive to all her poems, but thinks that the ones about family really struck a chord.

“Family is something we all have in common, and I think we are naturally interested in hearing about other people’s families because they remind us of our own,” she said.

“Students who read and listen to poetry soon realize this is yet another form of art available to us, another medium through which we can preserve the precious moments of our lives and pass them on to others,” she said.

O’Donnell said she was particularly grateful for the thoughtful questions students asked during the question and answer portion of the evening.

“They were especially interested in talking about Beauty, a theme I mentioned several times in the course of my reading,” O’Donnell said.

“They were fascinated by the idea that Beauty is as important as Goodness in a well-lived life.”

Cara Adams, an assistant professor of the Department of English, said she helped organize the event with the hope that students could experience excellent contemporary literature, which helps us see the world in a fresh way.

“The event was terrific,” Adams said. “As Angela noted during her reading, it is important for a poet to write toward the truth, depicting the world as it is rather than as we wish it to be. Her commitment to honesty and precision in her poetry is admirable.”

Madison Fruchter, a freshman psychology major, said she thinks there should be more events like this at Seton Hall. “Poetry has different meanings to everyone,” Fruchter said. “With more opportunities to listen to poetry at Seton Hall, students can discover a new outlook on themselves and the world around them.”

O’Donnell said she advises all aspiring writers to write and read as much as they can. “Writing is a talent and a gift, in part, but it is also a skill, one that needs to be honed through constant practice,” she said. “This is where reading comes in. The more voices we read and hear on the page, the greater our own repertoire becomes, the more complex and nuanced our own voice becomes, as we absorb what is best in the writers we admire.”

Werdeh Hassan can be reached at

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