Hot Dog and Matzo Ball Poems poet Gerald Stern reads his work at Drew.

Gerald Stern, author of more than a dozen volumes of poetry and Drew University’s poet-in-residence, read some of his poems for an audience at Drew, interspersing them with jokes that left the audience laughing loudly.

The poems Stern selected sluiced between topics such as a swim and hotdog on Coney Island, anti-Semitism and a deli meal of matzo ball soup and noodle kugel.

Stern’s reading and the reception that followed concluded a weeklong celebration of poetry through readings and lectures organized by Drew’s Master of Fine Arts in Poetry and Poetry in Translation program.

Rahsaan Fenn, a student in the program, said the poets’ discussion of the challenges they faced was very helpful: “They experience some of the things I wrestle with as a writer. It was mind-opening.”

Gerald Stern’s most recent publications include Divine Nothingness: Poems (2014), In Beauty Bright: Poems (2012) and Early Collected Poems: 1965–1992 (2010). Among his many awards are the Robert Frost Medal, the Bernard F. Conners Award from the Paris Review, the Bess Hokin Award for Poetry, the Ruth Lilly Prize, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Jerome J. Shestack Poetry Prize from American Poetry Review, the Wallace Stevens Award and the Melville Caine Award from the Poetry Society of America. He was also recognized with fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Stern was elected chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2006.

Student Miriam Starc found the analysis of poetry in some of the talks “thought-provoking,” adding, “I also learned different writing techniques, which I may use in my own work.”

Kathleen Hastings, who will graduate in January, said that the poetry series helped her improve her writing, and added, “The faculty at Drew is just amazing and makes the students feel like a big family.”


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