Fall Lit­er­ary Se­ries hosts na­tion­ally rec­og­nized poets

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The Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land will con­tinue its tra­di­tion of bring­ing en­gag­ing writers to its cam­puses this fall with the an­nual Con­nec­tions Lit­er­ary Se­ries, ac­cord­ing to a re­lease. The se­ries will show­case two na­tion­ally rec­og­nized poets. Evie Shock­ley, a Holmes Na­tional Po­etry Prize winner, will visit the Prince Frederick Cam­pus on Sept. 30, and Rick Ben­jamin, for­mer state poet of Rhode Is­land, will be at the Leonard­town Cam­pus on Nov. 4.

Neal Dwyer, co­or­di­na­tor of the Con­nec­tions pro­gram and a pro­fes­sor in CSM’s Lan­guages and Lit­er­a­ture Di­vi­sion, be­lieves Shock­ley and Ben­jamin will be a good fit for the se­ries.

“I was struck by their com­mit­ment to us­ing po­etry as a way to build bridges and break down bar­ri­ers,” he said.

Shock­ley will read from her col­lec­tion ti­tled “the new black” be­gin­ning at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 30 in Build­ing A, Room 119 on the Prince Frederick Cam­pus, 115 J.W. Wil­liams Road.

Born and raised in Nashville, Tenn., Shock­ley earned a bach­e­lor’s de­gree at North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity, a ju­ris doc­tor de­gree at the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan, and a doc­tor­ate in English lit­er­a­ture at Duke Uni­ver­sity. She is cur­rently an English pro­fes­sor at Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity.

The author of sev­eral col­lec­tions of po­etry, in­clud­ing “a half-red sea” (2006) and “the new black” (2011), Shock­ley is also the author of the critical vol­ume “Rene­gade Poet­ics: Black Aes­thet­ics and For­mal In­no­va­tion in African Amer­i­can Po­etry” (2011). Her po­etry and es­says have been fea­tured in sev­eral an­tholo­gies, in­clud­ing “Black Na­ture: Four Cen­turies of African Amer­i­can Na­ture Po­etry” (2009), “Poets on Teach­ing: A Source­book” (2010), “A Bro­ken Thing: Con­tem­po­rary Poets on the Line” (2011) and “Con­tem­po­rary African Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture: The Liv­ing Canon” (2013).

Dwyer hopes Shock­ley’s pre­sen­ta­tion will serve as an op­por­tu­nity for the larger South­ern Mary­land com­mu­nity to join in the con­ver­sa­tion, not only about racism, iden­tity and so­ci­ety, but about the role po­etr y and sto­ry­telling can play in trans­form­ing con­flict.

Ben­jamin will read from his work at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 4 at the Leonard­town Cam­pus, Build­ing A, Au­di­to­rium, 22950 Hol­ly­wood Road, Leonard­town.

He has taught at Brown Uni­ver­sity, the Rhode Is­land School of De­sign, the MFA Pro­gram in In­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary Arts at God­dard Col­lege, in many schools and in com­mu­nity and as­sisted liv­ing cen­ters — where, he said, “I have passed good time in the com­pany of peo­ple who range in age from 6 to 96.”

Ben­jamin also served as a Fel­low at New Ur­ban Arts, an af­ter­school arts men­tor­ing pro­gram for Prov­i­dence area high school students. His po­ems and es­says have ap­peared in “PRØOF,” “Wa­ter­shed,” The Prov­i­dence Jour­nal, “Tongue,” 350. org, “The Writer’s Cir­cle,” “Amer­i­can Poets in the 21st Cen­tury: The New Poet­ics” (Wes­leyan Uni­ver­sity Press), “Urthona: An In­ter­na­tional Bud­dhist Jour­nal of the Arts, Poem, Home: An An­thol­ogy of Ars Poet­ica” (Pa­per Kite Press) and “La Pe­tite Zine.”

Ben­jamin be­lieves that po­etry can play a pri­mary role in cre­at­ing vi­brant and con­nected com­mu­ni­ties. Dwyer said that is what drew him to Ben­jamin’s work.

“Rick is about build­ing com­mu­nity and us­ing po­etry as a way to bring peo­ple to­gether. That could be the theme for this sea­son of Con­nec­tions: Po­etry’s role in bring­ing peo­ple to­gether,” Dwyer said.

Ben­jamin’s po­etry classes at Brown and the Rhode Is­land School of De­sign al­ways in­cluded a com­mu­nity com­po­nent so that his students could more fully ex­pe­ri­ence what it means to cir­cu­late in com­mu­ni­ties out­side of higher ed­u­ca­tion, and his own cre­ative prac­tice in­cludes work in many schools, com­mu­nity and se­nior cen­ters.

“We can try it in many ways but, un­for­tu­nately for us in this cul­ture, po­etry has such a rep­u­ta­tion,” Dwyer said. “Most peo­ple would not think of it as a way to deal with a concern like racism, as Evie does, or in Rick’s case bring­ing com­mu­ni­ties to­gether.”

The work these poets are do­ing is im­por­tant and rel­e­vant, Dwyer said. He has seen the ex­tent to which a poem can ac­tu­ally be “a direct con­nec­tion to the lives that my students are liv­ing. These poets can in­spire an au­di­ence to be­lieve that there are other ways of deal­ing with con­flict, trauma and di­vi­sion – at very least, their works can serve to be­gin the con­ver­sa­tion.”

“As an ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tion, that’s a big part of our job,” he said, “… to be­gin the con­ver­sa­tion, to bring peo­ple to­gether over is­sues that mat­ter, to share sto­ries, to em­ploy words, po­etry to en­gage the larger CSM com­mu­nity … in terms of how we give back to the re­gion, that’s what we’ve been do­ing through the Con­nec­tions se­ries and the lit­er­ary mag­a­zine for years.”

In ad­di­tion to the Con­nec­tions read­ings by Shock­ley and Ben­jamin, the Con­nec­tions Mag­a­zine is so­lic­it­ing sub­mis­sions. The mag­a­zine is a re­gional lit­er­ary jour­nal pub­lished twice a year that fea­tures po­ems, sto­ries, art­work and pho­tog­ra­phy of South­ern Mary­land res­i­dents. A read­ing by con­trib­u­tors to the mag­a­zine will take place at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 2 on the La Plata Cam­pus Cen­ter for Busi­ness and In­dus­try (BI) Build­ing, Rooms 103/104 at 8730 Mitchell Road, La Plata. An­other read­ing will be held in May. To be con­sid­ered for fall 2016’s is­sue, the dead­line for sub­mis­sions is Oct. 31.

Since 1990, the Con­nec­tions pro­gram has fea­tured writers such as Na­tional Book Award win­ners Tim O’Brien and Robert Stone, Pulitzer Prize win­ning poets Yusef Ko­mun­yakaa and Henry Tay­lor, and Mary­land Poet Lau­re­ates Lu­cille Clifton and Michael Glaser. Con­nec­tions read­ings of­fer the South­ern Mary­land com­mu­nity a chance to hear from and meet es­tab­lished and emerg­ing writers up close and per­sonal.

Shock­ley’s read­ing is sponsored in part by a grant from the Arts Coun­cil of Calvert County and the Mary­land State Arts Coun­cil. Ben­jamin’s read­ing is sponsored in part by a grant from the St. Mary’s County Arts Coun­cil and the Mary­land State Arts Coun­cil.

Tickets for the Shock­ley and Ben­jamin read­ings are $3 in ad­vance at the CSM box of­fice, $5 at the door and $3 with a CSM Stu­dent ID. For tickets, con­tact bx­offc@csmd.edu or 301934-7828.

For in­for­ma­tion on Con­nec­tions, study guides and author links, visit www. csmd.edu/con­nec­tions. Fea­tured books are avail­able at any CSM Col­lege Store or on­line at www. csmd.edu/Col­legeS­tore.

Rick Ben­jamin, for­mer state poet of Rhode Is­land, will read from his works as part of the fall Con­nec­tions Lit­er­ary Se­ries at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 4 on the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land’s Leonard­town Cam­pus.


Poet Evie Shock­ley will visit the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land’s Prince Frederick Cam­pus at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 30 as part of the fall Con­nec­tion Lit­er­ary Se­ries.

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