Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gregory Pardlo to read his work at IU Bloomington

Post courtesy of newsroom intern Annie Brackemyre:

Contemporary poet Gregory Pardlo will visit the Indiana University Bloomington campus for a reading from his Pulitzer Prize-winning collection, “Digest.” The free reading, which is open to the public, will take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 2 in the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.

Pardlo’s collection ranges from the delicate to the humorous and touches on topics including parenting, race, socioeconomics and history. “Digest” finds its voice in the narrative of the everyday with urban jargon and classical references interwoven throughout. Pardlo’s work is praised for its ability to balance the delicate with the resolute, the crafted with the effortless and the mundane with the extraordinary.

Gregory Pardlo

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gregory Pardlo will read his work Feb. 2 at IU’s Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.

“Even before Greg was awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize, many of us in the literary community were admirers of the range and generosity of his poems,” said Adrian Matejka, the Ruth Lilly Professor and poet-in-residence in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences. “Greg has the rare ability to be innovative and inviting at the same time. Audiences can expect to hear a poet who is giving of himself and his art.” 

Despite his current success, poetry was not initially an obvious career for Pardlo. He took a five-year break from college, worked in a Danish restaurant and helped his grandfather run a blues and jazz bar in New Jersey before returning to Rutgers-Camden. It was there that he became an English major and began writing poetry. He went on to receive a master’s in poetry at New York University and published his first collection of poems, “Totem,” in 2007.

Pardlo’s experiences as an African American, his current home in a gentrifying Brooklyn and his family all serve as obvious muses in his poetry.

This passage from “Problema 3” gestures to one source of Pardlo’s inspiration: fatherhood:

…But we hear it as we round the rice
and Goya aisle, that other music, the familiar exchange of anger,
the war drums of parent and child. The boy wants, what, to be
carried? to eat the snacks right from his mother’s basket?
What does it matter, he is making a scene. With no self-interest
beyond the pleasure of replacing wonder with wonder, my daughter
asks me to name the boy’s offense. I offer to buy her ice cream.
How can I admit recognizing the portrait of fear the mother’s face
performs, the inherited terror of non-conformity frosted with the fear
of being thought disrespected by, or lacking the will to discipline
one’s child? How can I account for both the cultural and the inter-

“Greg’s visit is a special opportunity for the IU and Bloomington communities to hear the work of one of our most important contemporary poets,” Matejka said. “He’s also a wonderful reader with a great sense of humor.”

Pardlo’s visit is sponsored by the Lilly Professorship; the College of Arts and Sciences; the creative writing program and Department of English; the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs; and the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.

Other poetry news: Lilley talk

Kate Lilley, a visiting poet and scholar from the University of Sydney, will deliver a public lecture and reading at 4 p.m. Jan. 28 in Woodburn Hall Room 100. A reception will follow at 5:30 p.m.in the Lilly Library.

She will read poems derived from archival work from her prize-winning books “Versary” and “Ladylike,” as well as her upcoming book “Tilt.”

Lilley also plans to talk about her research on Mary Ellen Solt, a poet and former IU professor who came to Bloomington in the 1950s and also served as director of Polish studies. Before her death in 2007, Solt was known for writing flower-shaped poems and editing the anthology “Concrete Poetry: A World View.”

“Mary Ellen Solt is an important but somewhat neglected figure in the history of visual poetry whose archive many offers rich possibilities,” she said.

Lilley will discuss Solt on the Jan. 31 episode of the new “Through the Gates: IU This Week” podcast series hosted by James Shanahan, dean of The Media School.

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