Fall Arts Celebration to feature poetry duo

GVL / Courtesy Caleb Young 
Oliver De la Paz

Caleb Young

GVL / Courtesy Caleb Young Oliver De la Paz

Carmen Smith

The Fall Arts Celebration welcomes two award-winning poets for a night of conversation, live poetry and book signings.

An Evening of Poetry and Conversation with Oliver de la Paz and Tracy K. Smith will be held Thursday, Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. on the second floor of the Eberhard Center at Grand Valley State University. Admission is free, and all are welcome to attend.

“Every year, we try to choose two interesting and diverse voices to come,” said Patricia Clark, creative writing professor and poet in-residence at GVSU. “Because there’s two poets, we don’t want them to be the same. We want them to be different. That’s why we chose Oliver de la Paz and Tracy K. Smith.”

The first poet, Oliver de la Paz, is a NYFA Fellowship award winner and co-chair of the Advisory Board of the nonprofit organization to promote Asian-American poetry, Kundiman. His coming-of-age style poetry tells stories of his childhood in the west, his experience growing up, the fear of fatherhood and personal family stories from the Philippines. Currently, de la Paz is a professor at College of the Holy Cross.

“I love words and I love telling stories,” de la Paz said. “I also hope that, despite some of the dark tones of my poems, (students) can detect a bit of my humor.”

Along with de la Paz, Smith, a Pulitzer Prize winner and Princeton University professor, will share her poetry.

Smith has three books of poetry and one memoir, including her most famous work, “Life on Mars,” which won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize and was selected as a New York Times notable book. Smith writes about her life and her experiences, focusing on the death of her father and how her life would be different without him.

“You don’t have to be an English or writing major to come to this, just come,” Clark said. “It’s a gift to GVSU and the Grand Rapids community. To hear the poets live is to see a performance. You get to hear little secrets about them to help you understand. Poetry is not medicine, but a journey, a word journey that’s pleasurable and fun.”

Each poet will read for half an hour, followed by a reception that allows audience members to meet the poets and discuss their writing, as well as get books signed and ask them questions.

“It’s that moment when the stuff I’ve been working on in private moves from the journal to public interpretation,” de la Paz said. “In that juncture, the work hopefully becomes art. I spend hours and hours writing and reading in private, and having the opportunity to read to folks is a great environment to experience in the interior of the writer’s mind.”