WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ (October 17, 2016) – The 2016-2017 Visiting Writers Series continues with a reading by award-winning poet Gerald Stern on Tuesday, November 1 at 4:30 p.m. in Wilson Hall Auditorium on Monmouth University’s campus.
Gerald Stern is the author of 16 books of poetry, including, most recently, Divine Nothingness (2014) and In Beauty Bright (2012). Other works include This Time: New and Selected Poems, which won the 1998 National Book Award, and a kind-of memoir of a year in 85 sections titled Stealing History (2012). Stern’s many awards and honors include the Wallace Stevens Award, Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, and the Medal of Honor in Poetry by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was Poet Laureate of New Jersey from 2000-2002. In 2012, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Stern has two books coming out in 2017, a poetry collection called Galaxy Love and a book of non-fiction titled Deathwatch.
Stern was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1925. The son of Eastern European immigrants, Stern’s poetry frequently references his all-American, working-class upbringing as well as his Jewish and Eastern European heritage. Cosmopolitan, even international in scope, and yet deeply personal, Stern’s work is known for its passionate defense of human emotions and needs. According to Jeffrey Dodd, Elise Gregory, and Adam O’Connor Rodriguez, all of whom interviewed Stern for the journal Willow Springs: “His work derides provincialism and points to a world of experiences beyond American borders and transcendent of temporal limits. Stern has lived in this rich world, and his poetry calls attention to its failures, beauties, and curiosities without fear, shame or sentimentality.”
Gerald Stern has been called an “American original,” “a sometimes comic, sometimes tragic visionary,” and, by his friend Stanley Kunitz, “the wilderness in American poetry.” Over dozens of books, and decades of teaching and activism, Stern has emerged as one of America’s most celebrated and irascible poets. “If I could choose one poem of mine to explain my stance,” Stern told Contemporary Poets, “it would be ‘The One Thing in Life,’ which appears in Lucky Life.” According to Stern, the poem, which includes the lines “There is a sweetness buried in my mind/there is water with a small cave behind it,” makes a claim for his own inheritance and legacy: “I stake out a place for myself, so to speak, that was overlooked or ignored or disdained, a place no one else wanted.”
Stern’s many awards and honors also include the Bess Hokin Award, the Ruth Lilly Prize, the Bernard F. Conners Award from the Paris Review, and the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. He has received fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. More than one critic has compared Stern to Walt Whitman, but Southern Review writer Kate Daniels articulated a different perspective: “We might like to think of [Stern] as our quintessentially Whitmanian American poet,” Daniels has stated, “but he is far too literate, too worldly to seem typically American. Perhaps it would be more accurate to think of him as a post-nuclear, multicultural Whitman for the millennium—the U.S.'s one and only truly global poet.”
Monmouth University’s Center for the Arts Visiting Writers Series brings the most celebrated poets and authors from around the world (Andrei Codrescu, Colm Tóibín, Adam Zagajewski,) and our own back yard (Long Branch’s own US Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky) to the beautiful auditorium of the University’s centerpiece, historic Wilson Hall. With our Visiting Writers Series, we hope the audience will experience a renewed sense of their relationship to poetry and fiction, to language, and to be moved emotionally by that writer’s representation of what it means to be a human being, whether that experience is one of joy, celebration, longing, or sorrow.
For additional information, please contact the director of the Visiting Writers Series, Michael Thomas at 732-263-5635 or visit online at www.monmouth.edu/arts.