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The Arts

Plutzik Reading Series opens 60th anniversary season with Jericho Brown

Jericho Brown, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his 2019 poetry collection The Tradition, is "quite simply one of the best poets working today," says poet Jennifer Grotz, a professor of English at the University of Rochester. (Brian Cornelius / Blue Flower Arts)

The Pulitzer Prize–winning poet helps celebrate the University of Rochester reading series named for esteemed poet Hyam Plutzik.

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and author Jericho Brown will give a reading for the opening of the 60th anniversary season of the University of Rochester’s Hyam Plutzik Memorial Reading Series—one of the oldest literary reading series in the United States, and one that has brought such figures as John Ashbery, Louise Glück, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, James Baldwin, and many others to the University for readings and discussions that are free and open to the public. The reading is part of the University’s Meliora Weekend schedule of events.

The Plutzik Reading Series presents Jericho Brown

Friday, September 30 at 3:45 p.m.
Hawkins-Carlson Room, Rush Rhees Library
Free and open to the public

As part of the Plutzik Series’ 60th anniversary year and Meliora Weekend celebration, Jericho Brown will give a reading from his recent works. A reception with the author will follow in the Plutzik Library.

Brown is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Creative Writing and the director of the creative writing program at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Jennifer Grotz, an award-winning poet, director of Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont, and professor of English at Rochester, says: “While engaging with timeless subjects such as eros, death, and the natural world, Jericho’s poems are also finely tuned to our American cultural moment.” Brown “is quite simply one of the best poets working today, and we’re delighted to have him opening the 60th year of the Plutzik Reading Series.”

Brown is the author of The Tradition (2019), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2020, and the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, and the National Endowment for the Arts. His first book, Please (New Issues, 2008), won the 2009 American Book Award. His second book, The New Testament (Copper Canyon, 2014), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was named one of the best of the year by the trade publication Library Journal, Coldfront, and the Academy of American Poets.

Brown’s reading begins at 3:45 p.m., Friday, September 30, at the Hawkins-Carlson Room at Rush Rhees Library. The reading will be followed by a reception in the Plutzik Library. The Plutzik anniversary season continues with five more events through spring 2023.

Series honors early poet-scholar Hyam Plutzik

The reading series is named for the poet Hyam Plutzik, who joined the faculty of Rochester’s English department in 1945 and served as the Deane Professor of Poetry and Rhetoric. With the exception of one year, which he spent at Yale University on a Ford Foundation Faculty Fellowship, he remained at Rochester until his death from cancer in 1962.

Hyam Plutzik published three collections of poems during his lifetime, and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for all three of them: Aspects of Proteus (1949), Apples from Shinar (1959), and Horatio (1961).

Plutzik’s death at age 50 cut short an extraordinary career in which he had published three collections of poetry, and been named a Pulitzer Prize finalist for all three of them. A dedicated teacher, Plutzik believed fervently in the power of hearing poetry and prose read aloud at the podium. In 1958, he began bringing contemporary writers to give readings on campus. Following his death, the series was endowed through the generosity of his family and renamed after him.

Grotz calls Plutzik “an early example of the poet-scholar.”

“Although creative writing courses are pretty ubiquitous now in colleges and universities, this was not always the case,” she says.

The series has offered “a marvelous influx of some of the most important voices in contemporary literature,” Grotz adds, thereby deeply enriching the University’s classrooms and conversations. “Students are often transformed by the opportunity to meet a writer known previously only on the page.”

The series has included a wide array of towering figures in American literature—Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize–winning authors, National Book Award winners, and more than 22 former Poet Laureates. Nearly 400 writers have come to the University to read and interact with the Rochester community.

Plutzik Reading Series 2022–23

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