Emory Report

April 24, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 30

Adrienne Rich reads in Glenn

By Eric Rangus

Recipients of the English department's Creative Writing awards got a special treat April 18 at Glenn Auditorium. Handing them their awards was poet Adrienne Rich, one of the most well-known and respected voices of her generation.

Rich visited Emory not only to present awards but to give a reading. Following the ceremony, she stuck around for a reception and book signing, then attended a colloquium Thursday afternoon.

"[Rich] matters because she believes that poetry matters," said Lynna Williams, director of the Creative Writing Program. "We all know she is the best writer we could have at Emory on this night of celebration."

"I know this is a celebration of new talent," Rich said in her opening remarks. "Talent I know is going out into the world. We shall see where we find it next."

Rich read six works from her volume Midnight Salvage: Poems 1995­1998. They ranged in theme from stigmatized sexuality (Seven Skins) to an homage to New York (The Night Has 1,000 Eyes) to the "problem" of happiness (Camino Real). She also read four other poems recently published in the journal Sulfur.

She led off the evening with the poem The Art of Translation, from Midnight Salvage. She said "translation meant three things: an homage to the poets who translate poems from language to language, ensuring that the words are universal; poetry as an art of translation from the preverbal to the verbal world; and speech itself. "We are drawing on language as a bridge across which we bring what we have to communicate," she said.

Rich is the author of close to 20 works of poetry and four nonfiction books. She has received the National Book Award, the Tannin Award for Mastery in the Art of Poetry, Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, Lenore Marshal Poetry Prize, the Life-time Achievement Award from the Lannan Foundation and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

In 1997 she was to receive the National Medal for the Arts but refused it, protesting what she saw as a growing number of disenfranchised citizens in American society.

Rich wrote a letter to Jane Alexander, then-president of the National Endowment for the Arts, saying, "A President cannot meaningfully honor certain token artists while the people at large are so dishonored...My concern for my country is inextricable from my concerns as an artist. I could not participate in a ritual which would feel so hypocritical to me."

Emory Creative Writing award winners included: Aimee Pozorski (graduate essay), Leah Wolfson (undergraduate essay), Jennifer Callaghan (Academy of American Poets Prize for Best Poetry), Willie Bordwine (Grace Abernathy Scholarship in Creative Writing), Alina Opreanu (poetry), Anton Disclafani (fiction), Adam Roberts (drama) and Katie Kilborn (creative nonfiction).

Emory's poetry, fiction, drama and creative nonfiction awards are named for the late Artestine Mann, an Emory English student who was killed in a car accident. Also included in the ceremony was the acknowledgement of the 45 new members inducted into Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society.

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