Sunday, February 10, 2008

Paterson Poetry Prize Reading

Yesterday was the annual reading for the winners of the Paterson Poetry Prize. The first-place co-winners were both there. Christopher Bursk, prior to his reading, placed little gifts on all the chairs: a baseball card, a little block, and a small rubber ball. He then related each item to something in his reading. He's a wonderful poet and a terrific reader and a general all-around nice guy.

Christopher Bursk waiting to read from The First Inhabitants of Arcadia.
Doesn't he look like a nice guy?

Patricia Smith read next. Her collection is Teahouse of the Almighty. Patricia is a slam champion and highly regarded for both her reading style and her powerful words. She did not disappoint. Her reading energized the entire room. I want to mention that these two poets are not only terrific poets. They are also very generous people. Chris teaches and also works with prisoners and women's shelters. Patricia also works with young writers and has written a children's book.

Patricia after her reading. Another nice face.

Vivian Shipley was the third reader. She received a the Sustained Literary Excellence Award. She spoke about what she called her "hillbilly" roots in Kentucky, then read from Hardboot: New & Old Poems.

Poets hobnobbing during the break.

Doug Collura, one of the finalists. read from Things I Can Fit My Whole Head Into. As his title might indicate, Doug's poems tend to be funny.

Maria Gillan Mazziotti, director of the Paterson Poetry Center and the contest's sponsor, just introduced the next finalist, Peter Covino. Peter talked a bit about his Italian roots and then read movingly from Cut Off the Ears of Winter.

Therese Halscheid ended the reading beautifully with poems from Uncommon Geography. This poet makes her living house-sitting, a way of life that has made it possible for her to be a full-time writer.

Three finalists were unable to attend: Jack Bedell, Kwame Dawes, and John Hodgen. But it was a very full afternoon with six poets, many fine poems, and a wonderful variety of voices and reading styles. And as if that weren't enough, there was a table laden with fruit and cheese and several kinds of cookies. I went home well-nourished.

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