One and all invited to experience pearls offered by authors at UCSD

A Guggenheim fellow, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a poetry fellow of the New York Foundation for the Arts are a few of the acclaimed writers and poets who will present their latest works this spring as part of UCSD’s 2005 New Writing Series.

“We have chosen writers whose books have excited us,” said Rae Armantrout, who has chaired the event since the late 1980s. “They are known for their stylistic and ethnic diversity.”

The series kicked off in early April with Vietnamese-American author Le Thi Diem Thuy, a refugee who was born in Vietnam but raised in San Diego. Among the noteworthy authors are poet and writer Laura Moriarty, poet, scholar and editor Mark Nowak, poet and editor Peter Gizzi, poet Elizabeth Willis and novelist and poet Ali Liebegott.

“UCSD has always had an interest in cutting-edge writers,” said Armantrout, “especially those who are politically engaged.”

Take Liebegott, for example. A local poet known for addressing social issues in her work, she recently published a book-length poem entitled “The Beautiful Worthless” and is putting the finishing touches on a novel, “The IHop Papers,” and an illustrated novel, “The Crumb People.” Liebegott is scheduled to read her newest material May 25 at 4:30 p.m. at the Visual Arts Performance Space.

“Her work is wonderful,” said Armantrout.

Nowak, too, is a well-known community activist whose work is revered by critics. His most recent publication, a collection of poems called “Shut Up Shut Down” includes an afterward by scholar Amiri Baraka and was nominated for the James Laughlin Award.

Nowak, who will present his material May 11 in the Visual Arts Performance Space, is the editor of the critically acclaimed literary review “XCP: Cross-Cultural Poetics” and the co-editor of the anthology, “Visit Teepee Town: Native Writings after the Detour.”

Perhaps one of the most anticipated presenters is Peter Gizzi, a Pittsfield, Mass., native whose published poetry collections include “Some Values of Landscape and Weather,” “Periplum and Other Poems 1987-1992" and “Artificial Heart.” Over the years, Gizzi has authored numerous limited-edition chapbooks, received many artists’ grants, earned the coveted Lavan Younger Poet Award from the Academy of American Poets, and had his work translated into Bengali, Dutch, Flemish, French, Swedish and Serbo-Croatian.

“I am delighted to read at UCSD because of the writers who teach there,” said Gizzi, who will read May 18 with Willis in the deCerteau Room, 3155 Literature Building. “The campus has an important history of employing maverick artists, writers and poets and has done so since the ‘60s.”

Gizzi will read excerpts from “Some Values of Landscape and Weather” and other recent poems.

“My work is about values, both artistic and political,” he said when asked what messages he hopes to convey through this reading. "(It is) about the personal and the historical.”

Past presenters whose pieces have dealt with similar socially conscious issues include Fanny Howe, a retired UCSD professor who has published more than 25 books of poetry and fiction and won the Lauren Marshall Award, and Harryette Mullen, a professor at UCLA and a poet whose work was nominated for the prestigious National Book Award.

"(Mullen’s) work is very linguistically playful,” said Armantrout. “And Howe’s is politically engaging.”

A deep interest in politics is not mandatory for attendees. All students, budding and experienced writers and members of the community are welcome to attend, although the series’ primary audience consists traditionally of UCSD’s own writing majors.

“But, we always like it when people come in from the outside,” said Armantrout. “We’d like to have even more. We certainly encourage it.”

Gizzi also hopes the series will attract a diverse audience and assures it will be lively.

“The people who run the series are gifted and committed poets and writers who want to hear real work,” he added. “The community will benefit.”

The event, Wednesdays through May 25, is free and open to the public.

The New Writing Series is sponsored by UCSD’s Division of Arts & Humanities, the Department of Literature, Muir Provost’s Humanities Fund and Mandeville Special Collection Library. All readings begin at 4:30 p.m. and will be followed by an open question-and-answer session.

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