Grand Valley State University is in the midst of its 16th annual Fall Arts Celebration, an event held from September to December that features exhibitions showcasing music, art, poetry, dance, a guest lecturer and a holiday celebration in December.
Thursday, Oct. 26 marks the celebration’s Poetry Night, an evening dedicated to the written word that features readings by nationally known poets Jane Hirshfield and Dan Gerber.
Hirshfield has written many collections of poetry and prose, including most recently, “The Beauty” (longlisted for the National Book Award).
In fall 2004, Hirshfield was awarded the 70th Academy Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement by The Academy of American Poets, an honor formerly held by such poets as Robert Frost, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and Elizabeth Bishop. In 2012, she was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
Dan Gerber is the author of a dozen books of poetry, fiction, essays and memory. His most recent book of poems was “Sailing through Cassiopeia.” His work has received ForeWord Magazine’s Gold Medal Award, a Mark Twain award for distinguished contribution to Midwest literature, a Michigan Author Award plus a Michigan Notable Book Award.
GR|Mag spoke with Patricia Clark, coordinator of the evening for the Writing Department, to learn a little more about the evening, the poets and the growth of the event.
GR|Mag: Can you start by telling GR|Mag about what the event is?
Patricia Clark : The event is called Poetry Night and it features two nationally known poets who each read their work for about 30 minutes. Afterwards we have a booksigning and a lovely reception. Poetry Night has been part of the Fall Arts Celebration since its inception; this is year number 16, I believe.
GR|Mag: How did the event come about on Grand Valley’s campus?
PC: The event came about because we did a three poet reading in 2002 and 650 people showed up on a Friday night! It became clear that poetry was popular and could draw an audience.
GR|Mag: How were the poets coming this year selected?
PC: They were selected because they are excellent readers and writers, well known across the U.S. and good at working with students.
GR|Mag: How does this event fit into the rest of the fall arts program?
PC: There is an art event each year that also includes music, dance, poetry and an academic lecture.
GR:Mag: Is there anything else you would like GR|Mag readers to know about Poetry Night 2017?
PC: My students who attend are always really surprised by how much they enjoy the event. It’s about an hour long. It is really fun because just reading poetry on your own can be difficult but hearing the poet read is transformative. It’s like the difference between reading a play and attending one. A live performance is always better. Don’t miss this.
An Evening of Poetry and Conversation with Jane Hirshfield and Dan Gerber takes place Oct. 26, at 7:30 p.m., on the 2nd floor of the Eberhard Center, located on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus. The reading will be followed by a reception and book signing.
*Main photo by Curt Richter