In this Open House event, Jeffrey Brown of the PBS NewsHour moderates a discussion with poets Elizabeth Alexander, Billy Collins, Sandra Cisneros, Robert Hass, Edward Hirsch, and Kay Ryan. A Q&A session will follow the conversation.
Currently the chair of African American Studies at Yale, Elizabeth Alexander is a highly respected teacher and mentor as well as a founding member of Cave Canem, an organization dedicated to promoting African-American poets and poetry. Her accomplishments within academia are numerous and include a Quantrelle Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from the University of Chicago and fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard and the Alphonse Fletcher Foundation. Alexander’s book American Sublime (2005) was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, and in 2005 she was awarded the Jackson Poetry Prize. Her poem for the presidential inauguration became a bestseller.
Dubbed “the most popular poet in America” by Bruce Weber in the New York Times, former Poet Laureate Billy Collins is famous for conversational, witty poems that welcome readers with humor but often slip into quirky, tender or profound observation. Collins has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts and has taught at Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence, and Lehman College, City University of New York, where he is a Distinguished Professor. He is also Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute in Florida, and a faculty member at the State University of New York-Stonybrook.
Poet, novelist,essayist, short story writer and children’s author Sandra Cisneros was born in Chicago. Her writing, frequently engaged with the construction of feminist Latina identity, often folds Spanish phrases into a hybrid, spiraling syntax that crosses languages as her characters shift between cultures. Cisneros’ many honors include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships in both poetry and fiction. Cisneros has been granted honorary doctorates from Loyola University of Chicago and the State University of New York at Purchase. Founding president of the Macondo Foundation and the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation, Cisneros lives in San Antonio.
Former Poet Laureate Robert Hass is one of contemporary poetry’s most celebrated and widely-read voices. In addition to his success as a poet, Hass is also recognized as a leading critic and translator, notably of the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz and Japanese haiku masters Basho, Buson and Issa. Critics celebrate Hass’s own poetry for its clarity of expression, its conciseness, and its imagery, often drawn from everyday life.
Poet Edward Hirsch is the author eight collections of poetry, four books of criticism, and thelong-running “Poet’s Choice” column in the Washington Post. He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, received a MacArthur “genius” award in 1997, and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1987. His numerous other awards include an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award, the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, and a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award. A former professor at Wayne State University and the University of Houston, Hirsch is president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
Acknowledged as one of the most original voices in the contemporary landscape, former Poet Laureate Kay Ryan's most recent collection, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems (2010), won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Ryan's tightly compressed, rhythmically dense poetry is often compared to that of Emily Dickinson and Marianne Moore. Ryan is the recipient of several major awards, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation, the Union League Poetry Prize, the Maurice English Poetry Award, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Since 2006 she has served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
Jeffrey Brown is a senior correspondent and arts correspondent at the PBS NewsHour. He has profiled and interviewed many of the world's leading writers, musicians and other artists, and he is the creator and host of "Art Beat," the NewsHour's online arts and culture blog. His work as correspondent and producer has garnered an Emmy, five Cine Golden Eagle Awards, and other honors.
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