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Monday, October 2, 2023

Academics & Research

UH, Rice collaboration provides master talks

Students from UH and Rice University had a rare opportunity to get a master’s perspective on poetry as renowned poets Timothy Donnelly and Susan Stewart visited the city to give a collaborative craft talk and reading on Monday and Tuesday.

Both Donnelly and Stewart are famous in the literary world for their work as both poets and critics.

Donnelly is a professor at Colombia University and works as the poetry editor for the Boston Review.

He has written two poetry collections that have both been critically acclaimed in the literary world: “Twenty-seven Props for a Production of Eine Lebenszeit” and “The Cloud Corporation.”

The UH Honors College hosted his “The Captivation of the Maker” talk on Monday.

Stewart, similarly, is an English professor at Princeton University. Her extensive list of works has garnered numerous commendations, including receiving the National Book Critics award and being a recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.

On Tuesday, the UH Department of English held a Q&A session with Stewart, while her “Freedom of the Maker” talk took place in Rice’s Fondren Library.

Both poets concluded the visit with a reading at the Jung Center on Tuesday evening.

Kevin Prufer, an English professor at UH and one of the organizers of the talks, said that he hopes to make the collaborative effort a yearly event.

“We’ve teamed up with people at Rice University to bring two renowned poets to Houston,” Prufer said. “This is the first talk of its kind, and we’re hoping to make it an ongoing thing.”

Organizing the readings and craft talks wasn’t an easy endeavor.

Prufer said that bringing the event to life meant finding the right speakers and finding the means to make it happen.

“We needed people who were both important critics and poets, so I sat down with my colleagues at a coffee shop and talked it over for a few hours until we came up with good names for the event,” Prufer said.

“The poetry world is pretty small, so it was easy to network and contact the people we wanted to talk to. The tricky part was coordinating between UH and Rice and getting the grants,” he said.

All in all, Prufer said he was optimistic about the various events, because he felt the writers were lively, interesting and accessible.

“The writers we chose are good with people. They’re unafraid to really engage the students with their craft,” Prufer said.

Stuart Hadley, a creative writing graduate from UH, was present at the Donnelly talk. He said that while some of the discussion about poetry meter and structure was fairly advanced, the event was a great experience.

“He explained how those elements work to strengthen the poetry. It was complex and abstract — very intellectually challenging. I ended up really enjoying it,” Hadley said.

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