Award-winning poets share their voice during the Fall Arts Celebration

Ada Limón and Carl Phillips.  Courtesy / GVSU

Ada Limón and Carl Phillips. Courtesy / GVSU

Mary Racette

On Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m., Grand Valley State University welcomed award-winning poets Ada Limón and Carl Phillips to share their unique and contrasting voices for “An Evening of Poetry and Conversation.” The poetry event is a part of GVSU’s 16th annual Fall Arts Celebration.

The event was held at the Eberhard Center located on the downtown Pew campus. After each poet read samples from their work during their 30 minutes of allotted time, the audience was invited to stay for a book signing and reception. While attendance was encouraged by faculty for a few GVSU writing students, the free event was open to the public.  

“It is a chance to hear two voices bounce against each other,” said Event Coordinator and Writing Professor Patricia Clark. “I really want to appeal to a wide audience.”

According to Clark, during the selection process for this annual event, she seeks poets that are interesting to her, as well as the rest of the community. It is also important that the selected poets vary in style and content. This year, Limón and Phillips provided this “compare and contrast” effect for the audience.

Limón opened the event with a series of 10 poems which touched on both social issues and personal experience. Before reading each poem, Limón briefly explained the background and significance behind it. She concluded her time on stage with a poem from her most recent book The Carrying, “What I Didn’t Know Before,” which is featured on the broadside designed by W. Todd Kaneko.  

Limón expressed her excitement to read with Phillips who she stated is one of her heroes. 

Phillips defines his voice as philosophical with a sense of humor. During the event, he read poems from his most recent book, Wild Is the Wind

“My work includes topics of morality, the body and love,” Phillips said.

Both poets have received multiple awards and honors for their work. Limón is an author of five books of poetry and has been a finalist for competitive awards such as the 2015 National Book Award in Poetry, the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2015, her book, Bright Dead Things, was ranked one of the top 10 poetry books of the year by The New York Times.  

Phillips is an author of 14 books of poetry. Among his numerous honors are the Los Angeles Times’ Book Prize for Poetry and the Kingsley Tufts Award.

“To me the biggest accomplishment is the next poem that gets written,” Phillips said.

Students and poetry appreciators in the community gathered in the Eberhard Center to celebrate the arts as the poets shared their work.  Phillips emphasized the importance of experiencing poetry read out loud and claimed it makes it more approachable.