John Hollander to give annual Bastian Lecture at Centre

April 04, 2004

John Hollander, noted poet and critic, will give this year's Bastian Lecture at Centre College.

The free lecture, titled "Poetry and the Art of Finding," will take place 7 p.m. Thursday in the Norton Center for the Arts board room on the Centre campus. Hollander's talk will focus on the villanelle, a poetic form that was invented in the 16th century and is still used by many poets today.

A poet, scholar, teacher, editor and critic, Hollander has been a colossal presence in the American literary community for several decades. He is known for his mastery of prosody as well as for the charm, nuance and wit of his poetry.

Lisa Williams, poet and assistant professor of English at Centre, says, "John Hollander is one of our great critics of lyric poetry. More than any other contemporary critic I can think of, he is grounded in the tradition of poetry not only in English but in classical and European languages.


"He also approaches poetry with an attention to craft and creativity rather than with a merely critical or literary point of view. He has a great ear for the nuances of musicality and wit in a poem, and for their metrical and figurative bases. He is also an endlessly inventive poet in his own right, which vitalizes his own criticism with special knowledge of the craft."

Williams says Hollander's visit is fortunate for the campus and attendees.

"We are lucky to have him offer his thoughts on that popular yet challenging song-like form, the villanelle, especially since he himself has written some of the finest villanelles published in the last few decades," Williams explains.

Hollander has written numerous volumes of poetry, including Picture Window, The Figurehead, Tesserae, Selected Poetry, Harp Lake, Powers of Thirteen, Spectral Emanations, Types of Shape and A Crackling of Thorns, which was chosen by W.H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets.

Hollander's books of criticism include The Work of Poetry, Melodious Guile, The Figure of Echo, Rhyme's Reason, Vision and Resonance, Images of Voice and The Untuning of the Sky. Hollander has collaborated on operatic and lyric works with composers such as Milton Babbitt, George Perle and Hugo Weisgall.

Hollander's many honors include the Bollingen Prize in Poetry, the Levinson Prize, and the Mina P. Shaughnessy Prize from the Modern Language Association of America, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. A former chancellor of The Academy of American Poets, he is currently the Sterling Professor of English Emeritus at Yale.

The Bastian Lecture Series is named after Carol Bastian, Centre College Emeritus Professor of English. Each spring, a prominent scholar in English or American literary studies is invited to present a public lecture on campus.

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