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Linda Bierds, prolific poet, to read from latest work, meet with U. of I. students

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Award-winning poet Linda Bierds will be on campus in April, the last speaker in the 2004-2005 Carr Visiting Authors Reading Series at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

While on campus, Bierds, the author of seven volumes of poetry and a MacArthur fellow, will meet one-on-one with students in the Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program, and then give a free public reading of her latest work at 4:30 p.m. April 20 (Wednesday) in the Authors Corner of the Illini Union Bookstore, 809 S. Wright St., Champaign. Earlier that day she will be a guest on “Focus 580,” broadcast on WILL-AM (580) at 11 a.m.

Bierds is a professor of English at the University of Washington. Her work has been included in major anthologies and appeared in a wide variety of publications, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, the Hudson Review, the Kenyon Review and The Threepenny Review.
Her many awards include the PEN/West Poetry Prize, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and fellowships from the Ingram Merrill, John Simon Guggenheim, Wolfers-O’Neill and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur foundations.

Bierds’ latest volume of poetry, “First Hand,” is being published in April by Marian Wood Books, a division of Putnam’s.

In the new volume, a series of 30 linked poems, Bierds recreates moments of significant scientific exploration and discovery across the centuries. The ghost of Gregor Mendel and the research he and his Moravian monastery conducted, often including the cross-breeding of plants and animals, haunts these poems.

“As they trundle through the centuries, swaying this way and that, from wonder to foreboding, the poems in this book rest most frequently at the inscape of science,” Bierds wrote in her author’s note to the volume. “It is there, in that innermost space lit by the nature of human achievement, that their interest and questions lie, their praise and disquietude.”

The late and prolific writer-author-essayist Harold Brodkey has described Bierds as “a poet of magnitude.” The New York Times has called her “radiant,” and The New Yorker, “visionary.”

Earlier this semester, the Carr series, which is sponsored by the U. of I. English department and its Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program, brought two other award-winning writers to campus, fiction writer Dan Chaon, in February, and poet Suji Kwock Kim, in March.