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October 25, 2011

Reading series honors life and work of Hyam Plutzik

Hyam Plutzik smoking pipe
This year’s Plutzik Memorial Reading Series, one of the longest-running reading series in the country, will mark its 50th year and the centennial anniversary of Hyam Plutzik’s birth.

Professor Hyam Plutzik had a mission: the University community would not only experience poetry on the page, but also would know the excitement of an impassioned author at the podium and a rapt audience in their seats. Although Plutzik started small—reading his own poetry to students in the Welles-Brown Room in Rush Rhees Library—his insistence on poetry in performance launched what is now the longest running collegiate poetry reading series in the United States.
This year, the University and the Hyam Plutzik Centennial Committee celebrate the series’ 50th year and the centennial anniversary of Plutzik’s birth. The poetry readings and lectures are a University tradition that began after the Pulitzer Prize finalist’s death in 1962.

Plutzik Centennial Reading Series Highlights:

Readings and lectures are free and open to the public.

Two interrelated exhibits, Remembering Hyam Plutzik, curated by Sergei Kriskov ’13, and Students Read Plutzik, curated by Sarah Young ’12, are on display through Jan. 15.
Rare Books and Special Collections, Rush Rhees Library.

50th Anniversary Reading: Eavan Boland, Poet
Thursday, Nov. 10. at 5 p.m.
Hawkins-Carlson Room, Rush Rhees Library

50th Anniversary Event: A Ford Lecture by Christopher Ricks, Critic and Scholar
Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 5 p.m.
Welles-Brown Room, Rush Rhees Library

50th Anniversary Event: A Ford Lecture by Susan Stewart, Poet and Critic
Monday, March 5, at 5 p.m.
Welles-Brown Room, Rush Rhees Library

Dramatic Reading: Hyam Plutzik’s Horatio
Monday, March 26, at 5 p.m. Nigel Maister, director of the University’s International Theatre Program, will present a dramatic reading of Plutzik’s long poem.
Welles-Brown Room, Rush Rhees Library

50th Anniversary Reading: Philip Levine, U.S. Poet Laureate
Thursday, April 12, at 5 p.m.
Welles-Brown Room, Rush Rhees Library

50th Anniversary Event: A Lecture by Rosanna Warren, Poet
Tuesday, April 24, at 5 p.m.
Welles-Brown Room, Rush Rhees Library

The series began October 13 with Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa and featured distinguished poets and writers of the University faculty—James Longenbach, Joanna Scott, Jennifer Grotz, and Stephen Schottenfeld—who read during Meliora Weekend.

“One of Hyam Plutzik’s most cherished and enduring legacies at the University of Rochester and in the city of Rochester is the tradition of literary readings he established,” wrote Jerold Ramsey, a professor emeritus of English, in an informal history of the reading series. “Writers may have given occasional readings from their works on campus and in the city before he came—but unmistakably, Plutzik’s regular renditions of his own and other modern poet’s works inspired a practice that carries on to this day.”

“The Plutzik Reading Series is one of the oldest and most prestigious reading series in the country, but what’s really exciting about it is how alive it still is in the present—how much students gain from an intimate introduction to contemporary literature by meeting and listening to a wide array of poets and prose writers,” says Jennifer Grotz, an assistant professor of English, who will be a guest presenter at a Plutzik Reading on the road, scheduled to take place in February in New York City.

In addition to the wide-ranging series of events that pay homage to Plutzik’s legacy as a poet, educator, and promoter of the arts, Plutzik’s second book of poetry, Apples from Shinar, was reissued in October by Wesleyan University Press. The second edition includes Plutzik’s previously unpublished introduction and a new afterward by David Scott Kastan, the George M. Bodman Professor of English at Yale University.

“This is a very exciting year for the English department, which is proud to continue Hyam’s legacy and promote a love of poetry in the University community,” says John Michael, professor and chair of the English department. Over the last 50 years, the University has hosted Elizabeth Bishop, Donald Hall, Robert Lowell, and Salman Rushdie, among nearly 300 other acclaimed literary figures, including many Pulitzer, National Book Award, and Nobel Prize winners.

“The Plutzik family is thrilled to see such a prominent group of poets and critics here at the University in honor of my father. He would be thrilled by these contemporary poets’ work and excited to share their presence here with today’s students,” says Deborah Plutzik Briggs ’80E, Hyam Plutzik’s daughter.

plutzik at podium, reading poetry
Hyam Plutzik reads poetry to students in the Welles-Brown Room in Rush Rhees Library.

Two interrelated exhibits are being shown in the Rare Books and Special Collections Library of Rush Rhees Library: Remembering Hyam Plutzik, curated by Sergei Kriskov ’12, and Students Read Plutzik, curated by Sarah Young ’13. Both exhibits run through Jan. 15.

The Plutzik Reading Series is administered by the Department of English and is free and open to the public. For more information, call 275-4092, or visit the University’s Plutzik Reading Series website, www.rochester.edu/College/ENG/plutzik/, or the Hyam Plutzik Poetry website, www.hyamplutzikpoetry.com

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