URI selects another Pulitzer Prize winner for summer writing conference

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Prize-winning poet Gregory Pardlo to give workshops, read from his work

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 21, 2015 – Three’s a charm.

For the last nine years, the University of Rhode Island has selected writers, poets and playwrights to talk about their craft at the Ocean State Summer Writing Conference. Two of those picks went on to win Pulitzer Prizes.

Now the conference has another winner.

Gregory Pardlo just won the 2015 Pulitzer for poetry for his collection, Digest. Pardlo will give poetry workshops on June 18, 19 and 20, and read from his work on June 20.

In 2011, URI picked writer Jennifer Egan as the conference’s keynote speaker, then found out a few months later that she won a Pulitzer for her novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Two years later, it was déjà vu all over again when playwright Ayad Akhtar was asked to speak at the conference. A few months before his talk, he won a Pulitzer for drama for his play, Disgraced.

What’s more, one of this year’s keynote speakers, Tracy K. Smith, won a Pulitzer for poetry in 2012.

Pardlo is a teaching fellow in undergraduate writing at Columbia University. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Nation, Ploughshares and Tin House, as well as anthologies including Angles of Ascent, Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry and Best American Poetry.

He is the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship and a fellowship for translation from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Pulitzer judges described Digest as “clear-voiced poems that bring readers the news from 21st century America, rich with thought, ideas and histories public and private.” Pardlo is also the author of Totem, which won the American Poetry Review/Honickman Prize in 2007.

“I knew something special was happening when we studied Pardlo’s poem, ‘Alienation Effects,’ about French philosopher Louis Althusser,” says Peter Covino, associate professor of English at URI. “Gregory’s work combines issues of race, identity and philosophy in completely original and exciting ways, which is to say, the precision, passion and intense musicality of the poem became obvious when we read it out loud in class.”

The three-day writing conference, now in its ninth year, runs June 18 through 20 on URI’s Kingston campus. Participants can once again expect intimate workshops with writers who offer gentle and practical feedback.

The other keynote speaker is Antonya Nelson, author of 11 books who teaches at the University of Houston and whose work regularly appears in The New Yorker. Other featured speakers include Betsy Andrews, Ifa Bayeza, Adam Braver, Karen Brennan, Tina Chang, Rob Cohen, Ru Freeman, Richard Hoffman, Albert LaFarge, Brian Leung, Jody Lisberger, Derek Nikitas, Jim Taricani, Valerie Tutson and Padma Venkatraman. Thomas Barkman, Eileen James and Jason Shrontz are teaching in a program for young writers.

For details and registration, visit Summer Writing Conference. There is a $25 discount for people who register for the three-day workshops and main conference by May 15. Discounts are available for students, alumni and faculty.

Pictured above: Gregory Pardlo, who won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, will give workshops and read from his work at the annual Ocean State Summer Writing Conference at the University of Rhode Island June 18 through 20. Photo courtesy of Gregory Pardlo.