To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Plutzik Memorial Series at the University of Rochester, the City of Rochester is declaring Saturday, May 11, as Hyam Plutzik Day. In addition, the City and the University are providing special recognition to the poem Sprig of Lilac, written by the late Professor of English Hyam Plutzik, in conjunction with the beginning of this year's Lilac Festival.
A special ceremony with readings and remarks by City and University officials will be held in the Welles-Brown Room of Rush Rhees Library on the River Campus on Saturday, May 11, beginning at 2:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
"For 40 years, the English Department's Plutzik Memorial Series has enriched the literary landscape both at the University and in the Rochester community," noted William Scott Green, Dean of the College. "We are delighted that the City has chosen to recognize the Plutzik Series in this way and at this time. The poem Sprig of Lilac, by Professor Plutzik, has always been a favorite of many people. Its theme and its close association with the University and the City which Professor Plutzik called home from 1946 until his untimely death in 1962 make it an appropriate poem to associate with the Lilac Festival."
Lois J. Giess, president of the City Council, said that "the Plutzik Series has brought great distinction to this city and its renowned University. The City of Rochester is very honored to pay tribute to both the series on this special occasion and on the unique legacy left by Professor Plutzik to us all. We are very grateful to have this kind of literary resource in our midst."
Plutzik (1911-1962), the Deane Professor of Poetry and Rhetoric at the University, achieved acclaim as a noted poet during his career. He was the author of Aspects of Proteus (1949), Apples from Shinar (1959), and Horatio (1961). Collected Poems was published posthumously in 1987 by Rochester's BOA Editions.
The Plutzik Memorial Series was established in 1962 shortly after Professor Plutzik's death. It is now regarded as one of America's oldest and most prestigious literary reading programs. From the time of its establishment, the series has aimed to bring the very best of contemporary writers, particularly poets, to the University and to the Rochester community. In the spirit of Plutzik's service to poetry on campus and off, Plutzik Series readings have always been free of charge and open to the general public.
The stars of post-World War II literature in America have read for the Plutzik series, including 29 poets who won, or went on to win, the Pulitzer Prize. The roster has included such authors as James Baldwin, Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ralph Ellison, Allen Ginsberg, Jorie Graham, Anthony Hecht, Ted Hughes, Erica Jong, Galway Kinnell, Maxine Kumin, William S. Merwin, John Updike, Richard Wilbur, and Charles Wright. The 40th anniversary season was launched with a reading by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky.