Celebrating Poetry 

Junior English major Kayleigh Shultis, an intern with the New York State Writers Institute, is among the students who will share the stage with Tyehimba Jess on Sept. 14. (Photo by Mark Koplik)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Sept. 11, 2017) – Where else but UAlbany do students have the chance to perform with a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet like Tyehimba Jess?

More than a half dozen students will join Jess on stage Thursday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. for a reading in the Performing Arts Center (PAC) Main Theatre.

Thanks to the New York State Writers Institute, which is housed on the Uptown Campus, UAlbany students, faculty and staff and the public have free access to this event and many others by acclaimed authors and poets throughout the academic year.

Jess is a major contemporary poet who won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in poetry. His work serves as a bridge between “slam poetry” and other American verse traditions. His visit begins with a 4:15 p.m. seminar earlier the same day in the PAC Recital Hall.

Kayleigh Shultis, a junior English major from Rotterdam, N.Y., is among the student poets performing.

“I am very excited to perform for Jess, to get more experience with performing spoken word and continue doing what I love, which is writing and reading,” said Shultis, who became interested in spoken word while still in high school. “My long-term goal is to become a published poet and share my story and my art with the world,” she said.

Tyehimba Jess

Tyehimba Jess, winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. (Photo: John Midgley) 

Jess most recently wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection, Olio (2016), which weaves sonnet, song and narrative to examine the lives of mostly unrecorded African American performers from the Civil War up to World War I. His debut collection, leadbelly (2005), which was a National Poetry Series winner, tells the story of Huddie William Ledbetter and his passage to becoming the blues legend, Leadbelly. These achievements span a career that Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib of The Rumpus called “vital to the archiving of black performance and black performers.” The Boston Globe called Olio “one of the most inventive, intensive poetic undertakings of the past decade.”

Leading contemporary poetry critic Stephen Burt cited the daring of Jess’s work as well as the breadth of its appeal in recommending Olio as “something people who care for the music, or for African American cultural history, will read and reread, whether or not they notice its ambitious expansions of what has been possible for the contemporary poem.”

In addition to Shultis, other students who are expected to join the performance include: Mariah Barber; Lauren Bennis; Fatouma Diallo; Terrik Kobryn; Shantalee Martinez; and Elena Lipsiea.

Jess’s appearance is co-sponsored by the Student Association, Division of Student Life, and English Department’s Writing Center.

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