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September 10, 2003

Poet Gerald Stern to Read at Smith College

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- Smith College will present a poetry reading by Gerald Stern at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 23, in Wright Hall Auditorium. The event is free, open to the public and wheelchair accessible.

Stern is an American master. Born in 1925 in Pittsburgh, Penn., Stern himself had no mentors. He grew up in a home without books, the child of immigrant parents, and studied philosophy and political science in college. His first book was published in his 48th year, earning him instant critical acclaim. "I thought you read poetry," he says, "and, like a spider, you did it from the threads of your own belly. So it made me wait for a long time before I got some success. Decades. But at the same time, it made my poetry, whatever came, me."

When he burst on the scene in the early seventies, the Chicago Tribune Book World anointed Stern "the most startling and tender poet to emerge in America in a decade." From the start, his poems reflected a deep connection to the natural world and to places and things abandoned. He has gone on to write 13 books of poetry that ponder the weight of history and the buoyancy of memory, the casual miracles of relationships and the endless possibilities for joy. They include "Lucky Life," the 1977 Academy of American Poets Lamont Poetry Selection; "This Time: New and Selected Poems," winner of the 1998 National Book Award; and, most recently "American Sonnets." Stern's many other accolades include a Guggenheim fellowship, three National Endowment for the Arts awards, a PEN award, a fellowship from the Academy of Arts and Letters and the Ruth Lilly Prize for Lifetime Achievement.

In addition to many years on the faculty at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, Stern has taught at Columbia University, New York University, Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Pittsburgh. He served as the first poet laureate of New Jersey, where he continues to write both poetry and prose, including the forthcoming memoir, "What I Can't Bear Losing."

Stern is, as William Matthews wrote, "a poet of ferocious heart and rasping sweetness." His work -- like Whitman's, a transformative celebration of the stuff of daily existence -- is as gritty, lush, rageful, sticky, hilarious and humbling as life itself.

The reading will be followed by book selling and signing. For more information, call Cindy Furtek in the Poetry Center office at (413) 585-4891 or Ellen Dor é Watson, director, at (413) 585-3368.


Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Marti Hobbes
News Assistant
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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