November 28, 2014  

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Moorman Symposium to Feature Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins

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Billy Collins

The University of Southern Mississippi will welcome some of the most renowned poets in the country to its Hattiesburg campus when the Department of English hosts the 2014 Moorman Symposium May 2-3.

The symposium will begin May 2 at 2 p.m. with a panel discussion in the International Building auditorium, followed by a poetry reading by featured poet and former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins in Bennett Auditorium at 7 p.m. A book signing will follow.

On May 3, an informal Q&A session will be held at 2 p.m. in the Cook Library Gallery, which will be followed by a poetry reading with Denise Duhamel, David Lehman, David Kirby and Barbara Hamby at 7 p.m. in the Polymer Science Research Center Auditorium. A book signing will be held after the reading.

Dr. Angela Ball is the university’s 2013-2014 Moorman Distinguished Professor of English and is responsible for organizing the symposium. She’s excited about the event that will celebrate poetry and poets from the 1950s and 1960s.

“The Moorman Symposium will bring poetry out of the classroom and into everyday life,” Ball said. “Students will meet and confer with poets whose work they have read and admired, and the poets' works will speak live to the university and to the community, proving that poetry transcends all limitations, geographical and otherwise. And that poetry is fun and funny as well as sustaining and profound.”

Ball explained that in the 50’s and 60’s, Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch and James Schuyler gained distinction in poetry. The New York School of poets got their name from their friendship and occasional collaboration with the New York School of Painters. The strong visual element and the energetic language of their poems invites comparison with the work of such artists as Jackson Pollock and Jasper Johns.

Since then, Ball said the topic has invited discussion that influenced the idea for the 2014 Moorman Symposium, which will explore the similarities between the poetry of South and poetry of the New York School.

Duhamel, Kirby and Hamby are award-winning Southern poets writing New York School-inflected works. Lehman, one of the foremost authorities on The New York School of Poetry, will also play a key role in the symposium. 

As the featured poet on Friday night, Collins will read some of his humorous and playful poetry.

“You will laugh,” Ball said. “It will be one of the funniest events you’ve ever attended.”

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Department of English at 601.266.4320 or visit www.usm.edu/english/moorman-symposium-welcome.