VOLUME 31, NUMBER 17 THURSDAY, January 27, 2000

Pulitzer winner to headline literary series
Jorie Graham, prominent "ethnopoets" to be featured in "Wednesdays at 4 PLUS"

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Reporter Assistant Editor

"Wednesdays at 4 PLUS," the biannual literary series presented by the Poetics Program, this spring will feature Pulitzer-Prize winner Jorie Graham, major American poets Clark Coolidge and Ronald Silliman, British deaf performance artist Aaron Williamson, and several prominent literary figures in the field of ethnopoetics.

4 Plus The program schedule includes an Ethnopoetics Series, organized in conjunction with an ethnopoetics course taught by Dennis Tedlock, James H. McNulty Chair and professor in the Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences. The series will begin Feb. 7 with a talk by Dell Hymes, a founder of the fields of sociolinguistics and ethnopoetics, and professor at the University of Virginia.

Tedlock describes ethnopoetics as "a decentered poetics, an attempt to hear and read the poetries of distant others, outside the Western tradition as we know it now." The field originated among poets with an interest in anthropology and linguistics, and emphasizes performances in which the speaking, chanting or singing voice gives shape to proverbs, riddles, curses, laments, praises, prayers, prophecies, public announcements and narratives.

The Ethnopoetics Series will continue throughout the semester and will include Regna Darnell, widely published linguist and historian of anthropology at the University of Western Ontario, Feb. 21; David Napier, author and professor at Middlebury College, Feb. 28-29, and Isidore Okpewho, prize-winning author of books on African oral literature and professor at Binghamton University, April 10-11.

Graham, who received the Pulitzer Prize for her poetry collection "The Dream of the Unified Field," will give a reading on Feb. 16. She has the distinction of being the first woman to hold the title of Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University. Widely regarded as one of the leading voices in American poetry, Graham has published six books of poems and is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. Her poetry is said to be shaped by fierce intellect and passion, and to explore, "in the language of the senses," the mystery of being, the boundaries of self and the nature of meaning.

Williamson, a performance artist, choreographer, writer and Arts Council of England Fellow in Writing and Contemporary Art at Oxford University, will perform on March 1. Known for taking a physical approach to performance art and installation that has evolved in relation to becoming deaf, he has performed more than 200 times worldwide.

On March 14, Silliman will give a talk titled "Poetics of Prose-or Whatever," followed by a poetry reading on March 15. The author of more than 22 books of poetry, Silliman is associated with the West Coast "language poetry," which has been defined as "oppositional literary practice that questions many of the assumptions of mainstream poetry and arises out of an 'exploded self,' blurs genre boundaries and seeks actively collaborative relationships between reader and writer." The contemporary poet is most well-known for his "The Alphabet" series that he began in the 1980s, described as "a fascinating and celebrated collection of book-length poems."

Coolidge, considered one of the most innovative and influential American poets of the late 20th century, will give a reading on April 26. He received the Poets Foundation Award and the American Literary Anthology Award for his poem "Soda Gong" and an issue of the journal Big Sky was devoted to his poetry. Among his books are "Solution Passage" (1986), "Sound as Thought" (1990) and "Own Face" (1993). His complete literary archives, including manuscripts, correspondence and photographs, are part of UB's Poetry and Rare Books Collection.

Other featured guests will be Christian Bök, Canadian sound-poetry performer; innovative, prize-winning fiction writer Vincent Czyz; author and poet Karen Alkalay-Gut of Tel Aviv University; John Cayley, poet and specialist in literary translation from Chinese, and Mark Turner, a cognitive linguist who has published extensively on principles of conceptual integration, or "blending," and its role in literature.

The series also will feature a conference March 17-18 on the work of highly regarded 20th-century poet and author Ronald Johnson, who died in 1998. Johnson authored several volumes of poetry and various cookbooks, which earned him such honors as the Inez Boulton Award, two National Endowment for the Arts Awards and the Tastemaker's Award. The UB conference-titled "Eye, Ear & Mind" because of Johnson's tendency toward visual or shaped poems, exquisite attention to sound and keen intellectualism-will give several poetry scholars the opportunity to honor and explore the late poet's work.

The complete "Wednesdays at 4 PLUS" Spring 2000 schedule is available at http://wings.buffalo.edu/epc/poetics/calendar/spring00.html. All events are free and open to the public, except as noted.

The series is co-sponsored by the Center for the Arts, the Department of Media Study in the College of Arts and Sciences, just buffalo literary center and Talking Leaves bookstore. Call 645-3810 for more information.

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