Poetry Night, an evening celebrating language, insight and emotion, and the performance of poetry with two award-winning poets, is the next Fall Arts Celebration event.
Poetry Night: An Evening of Poetry and Conversation with Nikky Finney and B.H. Fairchild, is planned for Friday, October 19, at 7 p.m., at Eberhard Center, 301 West Fulton, on Grand Valley’s Pew Grand Rapids Campus. Admission is free. Seats fill quickly; arrive early.
Both poets selected for this year’s Poetry Night are noted as witnesses to regional history and cultural issues in their work, though each brings a separate geography and a distinctive voice.
When Nikky Finney gave her acceptance speech as the winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry, she made good on her girlhood promise to call out those who helped her succeed as a poet. She also reached back in history to acknowledge a time when slaves were forbidden by law to read or write. Many of the poems in Head Off & Split, her award-winning book, also pay homage to historic events and persons, with language praised as “eloquent, urgent and fearless.”
Born in South Carolina to activist parents, Finney came of age during the Civil Rights and Black Arts movements. She is currently a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Kentucky. Her previous volumes of poetry include The World is Round, Rice, and On Wings Made of Gauze.
B.H. Fairchild’s work shares a similar interest in history. The Los Angeles Times review of Usher, his sixth book of poetry, said “…he stakes out an American mythos in which the personal and collective blur . . . he adopts a variety of voices . . . to evoke a territory between perseverance and despair.”
Fairchild was awarded the Arthur Rense Poetry Prize by the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2001 for “consistent excellence over a long career.” That career includes work not only as a poet and educator, but also as a machinist in the mid-1960s, after growing up in blue-collar towns in Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas.
Previous collections of Fairchild’s poems include Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest, winner of the 2002 National Book Critics Circle Award and the Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress. He has been the recipient of fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Lannan Foundation, and is the author of Such Holy Song, a scholarly study of William Blake.
The poets’ readings will be followed by a reception and book signing. For more information, contact Grand Valley’s Poet Laureate Patricia Clark in the Department of Writing, at (616) 331-3199.
For information about additional Fall Arts Celebration events, visit www.gvsu.edu/fallarts.