Conversations About Poetry Oct. 15-17

Critic Helen Vendler and poet Jorie Graham headline three-day event for Writing Program reading series

Renowned critic Helen Vendler and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jorie Graham will headline a three-day discussion on poets and poetry Oct. 15-17 as part of Washington University’s Fall Reading Series 2003, sponsored by The Writing Program and the Department of English, both in Arts & Sciences.

Helen Vendler
Helen Vendler

Conversations About Poetry will kick off at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15, when Vendler speaks on “Intimacy in the Lyric: John Ashbery’s ‘Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.'” The talk, which will examine the relationship between Ashbery and the reader as well as between Ashbery and Renaissance painter Francesco Parmigianino, will be held in Hurst Lounge, located in Duncker Hall, Room 201, in the northwest corner of Brookings Quadrangle, near the intersection of Brookings and Hoyt drives.

At 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16, Vendler and Graham will host a dialogue about Graham’s work, her influences and the state of contemporary poetry. The talk will be held in the Ann W. Olin Women’s Building, located northwest of Olin Library.

The series will conclude with a reading by Graham at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17, also in the Women’s Building.

All events are free and open to the public, and a book-signing and reception will follow each. Copies of Graham’s and Vendler’s books will be available for purchase. For more information, call (314) 935-7130.

Vendler, the A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard University, is one of the nation’s most influential poetry critics. Her books include Coming of Age As a Poet: Milton, Keats, Eliot, Plath (2003); Seamus Heaney (1998); The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (1997); The Breaking of Style: Hopkins, Heaney, Graham (1995); Wallace Stevens: Words Chosen Out of Desire (1984); and Part of Nature, Part of Us (1980), for which she won the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism.

“Helen Vendler is the finest and deepest evaluator and reader of poetry I know,” said Naomi Lebowitz, the Lewin Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in Arts & Sciences at Washington University. “And she has the gift, as well, of transmitting her thoughts, whether she is handling the best poets of the past or the present, so elegantly, incisively, accessibly, that she stirs us to a rich re-reading. This is a judgment shared by the academic world at large, here and abroad.”

Josie Graham
Josie Graham

Graham, the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard, is the author of numerous collections of poetry, most recently Never (2002), Swarm (2000) and The Errancy (1997). She received a Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for Dreams of the Unified Field: New and Selected Poems 1974-1994. Other honors include a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

“Jorie Graham is among our finest, most authentically original American poets, passionately committed to the poem as a quest at once intellectual, spiritual and erotic,” observed Carl Phillips, professor of English and of African and Afro-American Studies in Arts & Sciences. “Her project is nothing less than to stake out a place for meaning on the ground of language as it shifts beneath us.”