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Visiting poets to read at Smith Hall on Feb. 18

Feb. 10, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Marshall University will feature visiting poets Ross Gay and Erika Meitner on Monday, Feb. 18.

There will be a small reception from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on the third floor of the Drink Library. The main poetry readings by Gay and Meitner are scheduled for 8 p.m. in Smith Hall 154. There will be a book signing following the reading. All events are free open to the public.

"We brought these two poets together to promote diversity in creative writing in the month of February," Dr. Rachael Peckham, assistant professor of English at Marshall University and coordinator of the A.E. Stringer Visiting Writer Series, which invites six to eight writers each year to read publicly from their bodies of work. "It was my good fortune they both agreed to come and read alongside each other. They both knew of each other's work and were excited. They are both nationally renowned poets and are very important on the literary scene."

Gay is an assistant professor of English at Indiana University and the author of two poetry collections: "Against Which" (CavanKerry Press, 2006) and "Bringing the Shovel Down" (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011). His poems have appeared in" American Poetry Review," "Gulf Coast, " "Ploughshares," and "Sou'wester", among others. Gay was born in Youngstown, Ohio, and grew up outside of Philadelphia. He also teaches at the low-residency MFA in poetry program at Drew University and is a Cave Canem fellow.

Meitner is a National Poetry Series winner and the author of "Inventory at the All-Night Drugstore" (Anhinga Press, 2003), "Ideal Cities" (HarperCollins, 2010), and "Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls" (Anhinga Press, 2011). Meitner is a first-generation American whose maternal grandparents survived the Auschwitz, Ravensbruck and Mauthausen concentration camps. She is currently an assistant professor of English at Virginia Tech, as well as the Morgenstern Fellow in Jewish Studies at the University of Virginia.

"Both of these poets take up the everyday human experience," Peckham said. "Ross Gay has found inspiration for a poem in the gym. I just read a poem by Erika Meitner entitled 'Preventing Teen Cough Medicine Abuse.' There is a bit of cheek and irony in their work, but there's always this kind of poignant underpinning to their work. It's not glib at all. They find that the sacred and the mundane aren't divorced from one another."

Peckham said to book this caliber of poets you have to start early.

"I started the conversation with them in June and they were excited to come to Huntington," Peckham said. "Erika is coming from Blacksburg, Virginia and Ross is flying in from Indianapolis. It takes quite a bit of planning and collaborating with other organizations. I can't bring in poets of this caliber on my own. I had to find support elsewhere. "

The Marshall English Department, Center for African American Students and College of Liberal Arts, along with the Jewish Benevolent Association and B'Nai Sholom congregation in Huntington, are sponsoring the event.

"The reception before the reading is to accommodate people from the community who would like to meet and talk to these writers one-on-one," Peckham said. "I don't want to bring in writers who just read and have very little contact with the community. I want the community to be able to talk to these people and ask them questions directly about their work."

For more information, call Peckham in the Department of English at 304-696-3649.