Two Prize-Winning Poets Pack the House

“There’s only one thing worse than being at a poetry reading,” said Paul Muldoon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, speaking at the October 2009 Writers at Drew series. “It’s standing at a poetry reading.”

I’ve gone to this English Department-sponsored reading series for several years now, and this was the first time the event was standing-room only. The reading also featured Jericho Brown, the 2009 American Book Award winner and self-described “American diva.” I had heard much about these two men, particularly Muldoon, whose work we read in English 20 and 21, the infamous sophomore class affectionately called RYEO, short for “Read Your Eyes Out.” Several students told me they came just to hear Muldoon; others had copies of Brown’s book Please shipped from home to be autographed.

The reading, held in McLendon Hall’s main lounge, was an explosion of energy, one of the best to date. The mixture of Brown’s darker pieces, written in the voices of famous musicians, artists and cultural icons like the Cowardly Lion, and Muldoon’s eccentric, and at times fantastical, works brought the audience, myself included, to both hysterical laughter and contemplative silence, all within the hour-long event.

At the end, Brown and Muldoon offered us aspiring writers some advice: Never take your writing too seriously. Have fun with it, and don’t avoid the clichés, but make them new. “As you know, poetry is constantly on the brink [between sense and senseless], and sometimes, it’s fun to just go over the edge,” said Muldoon.—Samantha Pritchard, Drew Magazine intern

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