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Saint Xavier welcomes Illinois Poet Laureate

State’s prized poet to launch Center for Religion and Public Discourse’s 2004-05 poetry series with event on Thursday, Sept. 23.

CHICAGO (Aug. 3, 2004) – Making his first Chicago area appearance since becoming Illinois Poet Laureate in December 2003, Kevin Stein will speak on his craft as the first guest of Saint Xavier’s inaugural poetry series. Sponsored by Saint Xavier University’s Center for Religion and Public Discourse, the series’ theme will be “Poetry and the Search for Meaning.” Stein’s reading and talk, titled “Gods of the Second Chance,”will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23 in McGuire Hall on the university’s Chicago Campus, 3700 W. 103 rd St. Admission is free and open to the public.

The poetry series will continue through the 2004-05 academic year with programs set to feature Joseph Parisi, former editor of Poetry Magazineand author of the book Dear Editor on February 2, 2005; Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Lisel Mueller in April 6, 2005, and W.S. Merwin, widely considered a candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature, on May 3, 2005.

Stein is the author of five poetry collections, three scholarly books and numerous published poems in prestigious journals and anthologies. His two most recent collections, Chance Ransom and Bruised Parade, published by University of Illinois Press, are among his works to receive wide acclaim from reviewers. Following Illinois Poet Laureates such as Carl Sandburg and Gwendolyn Brooks, Stein has received numerous awards including the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry magazine; the Devins Award for Poetry for the collection Circus of Want and three Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, the most recent in 2001. 

As Caterpillar Professor of English at Bradley University, Stein has garnered the university’s highest honors, including Bradley Faculty Member of the Year and the Samuel Rothberg Award for Professional Excellence. In addition to writing poetry and teaching, he also has pursued a scholarly career as a literary critic. 

As Illinois Poet Laureate, Stein must serve as an “ambassador of poetry,” according to the state of Illinois Web site. “In sum, the Laureate strives to forge a meaningful communion between poetry and the state’s populace.”

Said Stein, “For my part, I hope to undertake projects that will make poetry more available and accessible to people in their everyday lives.”

Sister Susan Sanders RSM, PhD, director of the Center for Religion and Public Discourse, said she hopes the series will showcase poetry as not only an art form, but also a channel for communication and discourse about what is sacred and meaningful in our lives. “I think we need to be familiar with poetry so we have it when we need it,” Sanders said. When studying economics as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, Sanders made a habit of memorizing poetry as a way to balance the analytical approach of public policy with the reflective and spiritual dimensions of our lives.

“Poetry is discourse,” Sanders said. “Reading it, hearing it and interpreting it can help us try to make sense of the world. It can humanize us. It can help us understand others, even when we have never met them or had their experiences.”

Stein’s program will feature readings from his work as well as a discussion of how he writes poetry. A book signing will follow the program.

For more information on Kevin Stein and the Illinois Poet Laureate mission, visit www.poetlaureate.il.gov. For more information on this program and the ongoing poetry series, please contact the Center for Religion and Public Discourse at (773) 298-3981.