Last Friday, Cornell kicked off its Spring 2008 Reading Series with a presentation from Denis Johnson, Mark Doty and Paul Lisicky, three new visiting professors in the creative writing program. The event was sponsored by two anonymous donors who are alumni of Cornell University.
The reading began with selections from the poetry and prose of Lisicky, author of Lawnboy and Famous Builder.
“I really enjoyed his poems about his mom and her memory,” Sarah Scoles grad said. “They were very touching.”
A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Lisicky won numerous awards from societies such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the James Michener/Copernicus Society, the Henfield Foundation, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center.
Doty shared a portion of his most recent book, Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, which will be released later this spring from HarperCollins.
“There are two copies of this book in the world right now,” Doty said. “I’ve never read from it before.”
Doty has received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Whiting Writers Award, two Lambda Literary Awards and the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction.
Lauren Alleyne grad said, “I pretty much came down to see Mark Doty, who I love — he’s amazing. I really enjoyed his work tonight.”
Johnson closed the evening, reading a series of fictional letters, which was comically cut short when the writer ran out of pages to read. Johnson’s latest book, Tree of Smoke, won the National Book Award last year. His collection of short stories, Jesus’ Son, was adapted into a film in 1992 with a cast including Billy Crudup, Samantha Morton and Jack Black.
“Denis Johnson had a very interesting persona — very low key, which somehow made everything funny,” Angela Furry grad said. “He seems to specialize in writing about being outside of your head.”
The next reading will occur on Feb. 28 at 4:30 p.m. in Goldwyn Smith HEC Auditorium.
Click here for a video of last Friday’s event.