Rita Dove coming to campus

Rita Dove inspired Collage Class

Lauren Sluss News Reporter

Authoring over ten poetry collections, dramas and novels, Pulitzer Prize winner poet Rita Dove will be presented the Stone Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the CH2M Hill Alumni Center, and will read her own poetry.

Established by OSU alum Patrick F. Stone and his wife Vicki, the Stone Award honors an American author who has not only had an established writing career, but who has also been heavily involved in teaching and outreach.

Dove, this year’s recipient, was not only the first African American US Poet Laureate from 1993 to 1995, but is also a professor of Creative Writing at the University of Virginia.

Dove’s writing history and community involvement qualified her for the award, according to associate professor and director of Creative Writing Susan Rodgers.

Dove’s work inspired outreach activities in the OSU community, such as sidewalk chalking events and art classes inspired by Dove’s poetry, two past public lectures on how to ready Doves work and OSU has even had Major in Fine Arts students teaching classes in the Corvallis high schools about the writings of Dove.

Snapshots from the community involvement will be appear in a professionally produced film, which will open tonight’s event.

The Stone’s $600,000 commitment has granted OSU the ability to award prizes in 2012, 2014 and again this year. The honorarium for the award is $20,000, establishing the Stone Award as one of the most substantial awards an American author can receive, according to the Director of the School of Writing, Literature and Film Peter Betjemann.

“It’s a very substantial award, and is one of the largest given by any university to a creative writer,” Betjemann said. “For all the winners we have had in the past, we have been very delighted that the person we are bringing to campus is a person who has connections to campus, to students in general and to the community.”

The Stone Award was granted to writers Joyce Carol Oates in 2012 and Tobias Wolff in 2014. The recipients are decided by an advisory board of writers and publishers who convene and create a list of suggested recipients. The OSU creative writing faculty then chooses from that list.

“She was chosen because of her national prominence as both a writer and a mentor to students, in keeping with the Stone Award mission,” Rodgers said.

Dove’s poetry has had a large impact on the literary community, according to Betjemann.

“The footprint of her poetry has been very large,” Betjemann said. “She has been continually active and writing about pressing political and cultural issues, and the fact that she is former US Poet Laureate is a huge part of her outreach component.”

Students are encouraged to attend the event tonight in order to have the opportunity to hear from an internationally recognized poet, according to Director of University Events Shelly Signs.

“Nothing beats hearing poetry from the author’s mouth and what they have to say about it and their own interpretations,” Signs said. “I watched a video of her reading her work, and by hearing the passion, story and emotion behind it, I think I got so much more out of it than I would have ever gotten by just reading the words on the page.”

The past two Stone Award ceremonies have been attended by around 600 audience members, which will add to the uniqueness of tonight’s event, according to Betjemann.

“There is a real excitement about hearing poetry read in that type of environment. You can go to her reading in the MU and it’s wonderful, but there’s a different kind of energy at a literary event with 600 people,” Betjemann said. “It’s a kind of literary rock concert.”

The Stone Award acceptance ceremony is free and open to the public. More information regarding the event can be found in the School of Writing, Literature and Film.

“Students often think of poetry as difficult to understand, but Rita Dove brings an amazing presence and energy to her readings, and her poems are sure to inspire and move you,” Rodgers said.

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