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Poet Hirsch To Read from his Newest Collection, The Living Fire

Published: March 15, 2010

Edward Hirsch, poet, critic and president of the Guggenheim Foundation, visits CSULB in the USU Ballrooms on Tuesday, March 16, at 7 p.m. to read from his newest collection, The Living Fire, as part of a class taught by English’s Patricia Seyburn. Admission is free.

“Edward Hirsch serves as an example how to lead the literary life,” said Seyburn, whose English 386 class on poetry has attracted to campus such top names as Alicia Ostriker, Chris Abani, Jeffrey McDaniel and Victoria Chang. Also due this semester are poets Charles Harper Webb on Wednesday, March 3; Marlys West on Monday, April 5; Dorothy Barresi on Monday, April 19; and Colette LaBouff Atkinson on Wednesday, May 5.

“When Edward Hirsch reads his work, his listeners hear the abundant enthusiasm and passion he feels for poetry,” said Seyburn, who joined the university in 2006. “His passion for poetry is truly at the core of his being. It is what he loves. He is an advocate for world literature with special attention to Eastern European and Latin American poets. He is a widely read, almost ‘evangelical’ poet.” Hirsch has been acclaimed for his poetry collections, For the Sleepwalkers and Wild Gratitude. For the Sleepwalkers was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1981 and Wild Gratitude won the award in 1987.

Hirsch is the latest poet Seyburn has invited to campus in her quest for the best. “All I want my students to hear is the best,” she said. “There are plenty of poets in Los Angeles, enough to have a guest for every class. But I want my students to hear the ones I consider the best. We’re lucky to have so many good universities in Southern California because so many poets teach.”

West saw her book Notes for a Late-Blooming Martyr published by the University of Akron Press in 1999. She was a 2002-05 Hodder Fellow at Princeton University and has received a National Endowment for the Arts grant in poetry.

Barresi, who heads the poetry program at CSU Northridge, is the author of four books of poetry including American Fanatics, forthcoming from the University of Pittsburgh Press; Rouge Pulp; The Post-Rapture Dinner, winner of an American Book Award; and All of the Above. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, the Emily Clark Balch Prize and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. LaBouff Atkinson is the author of Mean, a collection of prose poems from the University of Chicago Press in 2008.

Hearing poets and reading poets are different things. “Many of my students have been shocked by the difference between what they read and the artist’s performance,” she said. “Many believe the readings open up the books for them and make the poets more accessible. When they read the poet’s work, they hear the poet’s voice. It makes the experience more dynamic and interactive.”

Ed Hirsch
Poet Edward Hirsch

She thanks English chair Eileen Klink for her support. “She’s been incredibly enthusiastic about bringing these poets to campus,” she said. “My proposal was not met with, oh, that’s nice. I got a ‘wow!’ That felt good because, considering the budget, you get told ‘no’ a lot. I don’t like hearing ‘no’ that much.”

Seyburn’s third book of poems titled Hilarity won the 2008 Green Rose Poetry Prize from Western Michigan University. On Christmas Eve 2009, Hilarity was favorably reviewed in The New York Times Book Review. Seyburn earned her B.S. in 1984 and M.S. from Northwestern University, her M.F.A. from UC Irvine and her Ph.D. in 2003 from the University of Houston.

Seyburn’s commitment to bringing writers to campus was further kindled with the appearance of well-known poet/critic Alicia Ostriker.

“Her reading drew an audience of 150 students and faculty members,” she recalled. “It was a very heady experience and helped me to see there was potential there for more than a reading; it could be an event.”

Seyburn is interested in giving her poetry students something to remember. “These readings could be some of those moments that really click for students,” she said. “I’m not trying to create hundreds of poets. But a love for poetry can catch on and become a lifetime love. I’ve lost count of how many students who have told me in shock how much they enjoyed a poetry reading. The next time they have the chance to hear poetry, they won’t treat it like a burden. That’s the kind of thing students hearken back to 20 years later. It is a chance to create intellectual growth that keeps on growing. The intimacy of poetry can be resounding.”

–Richard Manly