Release Date: October 24, 2016
BUFFALO, N.Y. – MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant recipient and former Guggenheim fellow Campbell McGrath will present the 2016 University at Buffalo Oscar Silverman Reading at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11, at the Jacobs Executive Development Center, 672 Delaware Ave. in Buffalo.
Strongly influenced by Walt Whitman, McGrath writes mostly documentary, free-verse poems that probe American culture and commerce. McGrath’s collection “Spring Comes to Chicago” (1996), a Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award winner, turns on the axis of one of his best known and representative works, “The Bob Hope Poem,” a 70-page piece whose shape, he told Poetry Magazine, “is not a narrative, but a symphonic structure.”
The event is free and open to the public.
The annual Silverman Reading is presented in memory of Oscar Silverman, the distinguished UB scholar and teacher who chaired the Department of English, directed the University Libraries and helped develop UB’s remarkable collection of 20th century poetry and rare books, including the Robert Graves poetry collection and the works of James Joyce.
Ansie Baird, Silverman’s daughter, administers the readings with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carl Dennis, SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English.
The two alternate choosing the presenter, but don’t make a final decision until they agree on a choice. This year, it was Carl Dennis’ turn.
“I chose McGrath because I see him as a poet with Whitman’s ambition to get America into his poems, to turn outward now inward in an effort to do justice to its variety, its possibilities and its failures,” said Dennis. “In his [recent] book (XX: Poems for the Twentieth Century) his ambition becomes historical as he tries to present his own version of the 20th century by writing a poem every year.
“It’s an inspiring book that challenges each of us to do the same.”
Baird said she has been immersing herself in McGrath’s poems for the last month and finds him “moving and witty at the same time.”
“He challenges our conventional ways of expressing ourselves,” she said.
McGrath’s visit marks the 40th anniversary of the Silverman Reading, an event characterized by its impressive record of hosting some of the late 20th and early 21st century’s greatest poetic voices to the university.
“This series has provided an opportunity for the community at large to hear distinguished poets in a pleasant atmosphere,” said Baird. “Many who come to the event do not go to any other poetry reading in a given year.”
McGrath’s other poetry collections include “Capitalism” (1990); “American Noise” (1994); “Florida Poems” (2002); “Pax Atomica” (2005); “Seven Notebooks” (2007); and his most recent, “In the Kingdom of the Sea Monkeys” (2012).
In addition to the Kingsley Tufts Poetry award, McGrath’s work has earned the Pushcart Prize, the Academy of American Poets Prize and the Cohen Award. In 2011, he was named a fellow of United States Artists.
McGrath lives in Miami Beach, Florida, and teaches creative writing at Florida International University. His former students include award-winning poet Emma Trelles and Richard Blanco, who in 2013 became only the fifth poet to read at a U.S. presidential inauguration.