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The Art of Listening: A Reading by Two Poets
On Thursday, Oct. 24, the YMCA’s Downtown Writers Center offers its third annual reading as a component of Syracuse Symposium, featuring two internationally acclaimed poets—Ilya Kaminsky and Stephen Kuusisto (one hearing-impaired, the other blind). They will read work from their previously published books with consideration of “Listening,” the Syracuse Symposium 2013 theme.
The reading will be at the YMCA, 340 Montgomery St., in downtown Syracuse, at 7 p.m. Co-sponsored by the Syracuse University Humanities Center, the reading is free and open to the public and will offer American Sign Language interpretation. A book signing by both writers will follow.
While sharing their work, Kaminsky and Kuusisto will demonstrate the poet’s act of listening as a complicated, intricate endeavor that leads to poignant poetry. When we think of poetry, the music of language comes to mind. With the significant elements of their individual poetic perspectives, Kaminsky and Kuusisto will perform selections of poems from their books, which will also be available for purchase before and following the reading.
Kaminsky, originally from Odessa in the former Soviet Republic, lost his hearing at the age of four, due to illness. In addition, with English as his second language (having been granted asylum, along with his family, by the American government in 1993), the unique voice of his work adds to the exquisite sense of the language on the page. Prior to committing to poetry, his interests and education were founded in the study of law and he worked as a law clerk for San Francisco Legal Aid and the National Immigration Law Center. Currently, he teaches English and comparative literature at San Diego State University and is director of the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute.
Kaminsky ‘s highly recognized collection of poetry is “Dancing In Odessa,” winner of the Tupelo Press Dorset Prize, as well as the prestigious Whiting Writer’s Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award, and Poetry magazine‘s annual Ruth Lilly Fellowship.
Kuusisto, who has been blind since birth, has published two poetry collections: “Only Bread, Only Light” and the recent “Letters to Borges,” both from Copper Canyon Press. He is also author of “Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening” and the acclaimed memoir “Planet of the Blind,” a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year.”
A graduate of the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa, and a Fulbright Scholar, Kuusisto is director of the Renée Crown University Honors Program, where he holds a University Professorship in the Center on Human Policy, and a noted disability rights advocate. In May 2013, Kuusisto traveled to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan with three other writers on a 10-day reading tour as a part of the cultural ambassadors program cosponsored by the University of Iowa International Writing Program (IWP) and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. The goal of this and other similar tours organized by the IWP was to foster understanding, creative connection and exchange for cultural understanding and diplomacy among American artists and those of other nations through the literary arts.
In addition to his books of poetry, Kuusisto is a noted memoirist and commentator of social issues, particularly those centered on the rights of the disabled, both in the United States and throughout the world. He has published many articles for print journals, and has appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Dateline NBC,” National Public Radio and the BBC.