Jean Valentine Wins 2017 Bollingen Prize!

ALSCW member Jean Valentine is the winner of Yale’s 2017 Bollingen Prize for Poetry. Jean read her verse at the ALSCW local meeting in New York City on November 28, 2016, at Barnard University.

“Jean Valentine is fearless when moving into charged territory and in her work we find mystery and surprise in abundance,” said the three-member judging committee. “Without compromising substance or sacrificing a reckoning with painful reality, inequity, and loss, there is solace and spirituality, and she radiates responsibility as a voice of clarity and compassion.” The prize honors Valentine’s most recent book, Shirt in Heaven, published by Copper Canyon Press.
Jean Valentine 1

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Washington, DC Local Events: T.R. Hummer and Mike Mattison

Poet and musician T.R. Hummer spoke on the making of High Minded (2010)–an album by his band, AmeriCamera, that fuses poetry and music–at an ALSCW local meeting in Washington DC on February 8th. Hummer’s multi-media presentation was attended by an audience of over one-hundred, and hosted by Catholic University. Hummer is the author of fourteen books of poetry, two books of criticism, and is the former editor of the Kenyon Review and the Georgia Review. An accomplished saxophonist, Hummer was a member of the blues group Little Ronnie and the Grand Dukes, playing on their album, Young and Evil, which was released by Planetary Records in 2001.

T R Hummer 1

Two-time Grammy winner and author Mike Mattison lectured on Bob Dylan and blues verse composition at an ALSCW local meeting in Washington DC on February 22nd.  Over one-hundred attendees were treated to an evening of analysis and music. Mattison focused on Dylan’s work from Highway 61 Revisited (1965) to Self Portrait (1970), and discussed musical and poetic influences on the Nobel Prize winner’s art.  The event was hosted by Catholic University. Mattison is the co-curator of the feature “Hot Rocks: Songs and Verse” in Five Points: A Journal of Literature and Art, a member of the band Scrapomatic, and of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, which was in DC to play three sold out shows at the Warner Theater.

Mike Mattison 1

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Washington DC Local Meeting, February 10, 2017

The ALSCW will be hosting a poetry reading on February 10th in Washington DC at the Catholic University of America. The event will feature Meena Alexander, Robin Becker, Michelle Boisseau, Marianne Boruch, Rosellen Brown, Heid Erdrich, Jan Freeman, Alice Friman, Allison Joseph, Thylias Moss, Alicia Ostriker, Rebecca Seiferle, Enid Shomer, Terese Svoboda, and Eleanor Wilner. Each poet will read one to two poems of her own, and one by a woman not present. The event is free and open to the public, and will take place in Caldwell Auditorium from 6 to 7:15 pm. A reception will follow.

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Congratulations to Many Distinguished Members!

Longtime member Kelly Cherry, who enjoyed a distinguished career teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been given a Lifetime Achievement Award from her alma mater, the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

Younger member Ryan Wilson, who is the ALSCW Office Manager and a graduate student at Catholic University, has won the Donald Justice Poetry Prize from the West Chester University Poetry Center.  The prize includes a cash stipend and book publication of his manuscript.

A version of the seminar paper—“Correspondences: Baudelaire’s Fleurs du mal and the Translation Tasks of Richard Howard and Walter Benjamin”– Mary Maxell gave at the 2016 annual conference will be published in the Yale Review.

ALSCW members Al Basile (the 2015 winner of the ALSCW Meringoff Poetry Prize), Luther Dickinson, and Mike Mattison of the Tedeschi Trucks Band have received nominations in multiple categories for the Blues Music Awards.

Congratulations to all!

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Jean Valentine: New York Local Meeting, 28 November, 2016

img_2199Jean Valentine read at the ALSCW local meeting in New York City just now, on November 28, 2016, at Barnard, in an evening graciously co-sponsored by Saskia Hamilton and the program Women Poets at Barnard. The audience filled the handsome Sulzberger Parlor where, as Valentine noted, the portraits of earlier presidents of Barnard, thoughtful, formidable women, seemed also to be listening. Valentine read from her two most recent books, Break the Glass (2010) and Shirt in Heaven (2015), followed by new poems of quiet force and mystery.

The reading prompted first, a grateful hush, then questions and a lively discussion during which Valentine demonstrated how the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer once leapt over the back of a chair to join her and friends at a table at a restaurant. The formal question period flowed into an hour of festive eating, drinking, and clustered conversations, just the kind of fellowship the ALSCW is designed to create.

Here is the way I introduced Jean Valentine:
“‘I lay down under language/ it left me and I slept,’ writes Jean Valentine in the poem “Open” in her recent book, Shirt in Heaven. Often Valentine writes as if she could conjure vision from a realm beyond words, as just as often she writes to commune with the dead in a realm beyond the life-death divide. But it is through words, in the beautiful ambiguity of that preposition, meaning beyond words but also in the medium of words, that Valentine makes her vision into experience for the reader.

The experiences are rich and multiple. Sometimes her poems summon a lost past into the present, as in one of my favorite poems, “Hawkins Stable,” from Break the Glass:

…Under the fields,
the dense, tongue of the cow–
and the horses’ eyes–

and the water from the hand-pump in the sink,
racing like horses.”

Sometimes she questions, radically, what it is to see:

Eye opened
but what is slow”
(“The Valley, from Break the Glass)

Often the poems give a structure and pace for grieving:

She found her tongue on the floor
and paper-clipped it to

the kitchen calendar. This was back in the day
of Separation. Permanence.
(“Her Car,” from Break the Glass)

Sometimes the poems call out to and bring to imaginative life kindred artists: Joseph Cornell, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Reginald Shepherd, Adrienne Rich, Antonin Artaud.

Mystical talk is cheap. Jean Valentine has brought enormous geological pressure and a fierce meditative discipline in language and dream-work to her visions, and in consequence she has made that rare thing, durable poetry.”

With warm thanks so Margaret Ducharme, Saskia Hamilton, and Phillis Levin who helped to arrange this evening.

– Rosanna Warren

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2017 ALSCW Dissertation Fellowship

The annual fellowship is designed to support an individual whose doctoral dissertation involves literary history and/or aesthetics by providing a three week residency at a cabin nestled on nine acres in the mountains of West Virginia. Preference is given to candidates whose dissertation is at an advanced stage. The cabin is fully equipped and has Internet service. The dates of the residency are flexible and to be determined by the fellowship recipient in consultation with the ALSCW. Applicants must submit a c.v., a chapter of their dissertation, a two page description of the entire dissertation, and three letters of recommendations. Materials should be submitted online to with the heading ALSCW Fellowship on the subject line of the email. Additional references and an occupancy agreement may be required. All applicants must be members of the ALSCW or sponsored by a member of the ALSCW. The deadline for submission is February 15th. The recipient of the fellowship will be notified by mid-March. Membership information is available at on our website (

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A Tribute to Geoffrey Hill

Thursday, November 10th, 7-8:30 pm

The Castle, 225 Bay State Road, Boston University.

Participants include Archie Burnett, David Ferry, Saskia Hamilton, Kenneth Haynes, George Kalogeris, Marcia Karp, Christopher Ricks, Jon Westling.


?Geoffrey Hill (1932-2016) published his first full collection of poems, For the Unfallen: Poems 1952-1958, in 1959 (Andre Deutsch), followed by King Log (A. Deutsch, 1968) and Mercian Hymns (A. Deutsch, 1971), which received the Alice Hunt Bartlett Prize. Hill went on to publish numerous books of poems, including Broken Hierarchies: Poems, 1952–2012 (Oxford University Press, 2013); Odi Barbare (Clutag Press, 2012); The Orchards of Syon (Penguin Books, 2002); The Triumph of Love(Houghton Mifflin, 1998), winner of the Heinemann Book Award; Canaan (Penguin Books, 1996), winner of the Kahn Award; and Tenebrae (A. Deutsch, 1978). Hill also published several collections of essays, journal and periodical articles, prose, and an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s Brand (University of Minnesota Press, 1981). He received many honors and awards, including the Faber Memorial Prize, the Hawthornden Prize, the Loines Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the T.S. Eliot Award for Creative Writing from the Ingersoll Foundation, and a Churchill fellowship at the University of Bristol.

A Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford for fivey years, Hill was an honorary fellow of Keble College, Oxford, and Emmanuel College, Cambridge, a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, London, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He taught at Emmanuel College, Boston and Cambridge Universities, and the Universities of Ibadan in Nigeria, Leeds, and Michigan at Ann Arbor. He also gave the Clark Lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge, and served as professor emeritus of English Literature and Religion and as co-director of the Editorial Institute at Boston University. In 2012, Hill was knighted for services to literature.

He died on June 30, 2016, at eighty-four years old.

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In Memoriam: William Louis-Dreyfus

We are grieved at the loss of William Louis-Dreyfus, the noted businessman, philanthropist, art collector, and poet who died on September 16, 2016. William was a staunch friend to the ALSCW. In the past decade he hosted quite a few of our literary “salons” in his apartment in New York City, where writers presented their work, discussion eddied, and wine flowed in the presence of noble works of art (including, I especially remember, a small flower painting by Fantin-Latour, and a landscape by Stanley Lewis). In 2012 William sponsored a memorable evening at Poets House for ALSCW, a panel discussion about “What Makes Poetry Good,”at which Paul Keegan spoke about Beckett’s French poems, Christopher Ricks discussed John Crowe Ransom’s critique of Hardy, and Jill Rosser spoke about Donne. In 2014, William made possible a series of three lectures in New York by Christopher Ricks, sumptuously presented and catered. He understood the Association’s ideals, and supported us materially and spiritually.

William Louis-Dreyfus was born in Paris in 1932 to a famously wealthy family. He attended Duke University and Duke Law School, practiced law for a while in New York, and entered the Louis Dreyfus firm in 1965. He started collecting art in his adolescence in Paris, often skipping classes in the lycée to browse in art galleries. This browsing turned into a life-long passion for art. His collection, at his death, includes works by Giacometti, Jean Dubuffet, and Helen Frankenthaler, as well as works by lesser known but powerful artists like Raymond Mason and Stanley Lewis, and “outsider” artists like Bill Traylor. William was a true collector, not an investor in art: he had a fine eye, chose everything for himself and out of love, stubbornly followed his own way and trusted his vision, and personally sought out the living artists whose work he admired.

William’s approach to philanthropy was similarly personal and passionate. He supported social services in his town just outside Manhattan, provided scholarships for minority students, and funded voter registration drives. He was incensed at the treatment of African Americans in this country, and in 2015 he donated the proceeds of his art collection (valued at somewhere between $10 and $50 million) to Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone educational initiative. In 2012, outraged at the moves to limit and suppress voting in this country, he published a full page ad in the New York Times calling on the wealthy to donate money to restore democracy: “A Call to Arms to the Wealthy to Protect the Right to Vote.” He donated $1 million to that cause.

And William was a serious poet and lover of poetry. He was Chairman of the Board of the Poetry Society of America from 1998 to 2008. His own poems, much influenced by his beloved Robert Frost, were published in The Hudson Review, The New Criterion, and elsewhere. He left a completed manuscript of poems, Letters Written and Not Sent, which will no doubt find a publisher.

We mourn a friend and benefactor, a man for whom money was an instrument of the moral imagination. As John Berryman wrote in his Dream Song elegy for Robert Frost, “For a while here we possessed/ an unusual man.”

Rosanna Warren

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Winner of 2016 Meringoff Secondary School Essay Contest

Dear ALSCW members and friends:

We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2016 Meringoff Secondary School Essay Contest. The Meringoff Secondary School prizes are given annually for analytical essays by students in grades 9 through 12 dealing with works of recognized literary merit. Papers may examine style, characterization, rhetorical technique, or structure, and may be about individual poems, short stories, novels, plays, or essays. Papers may also compare two carefully selected works. This year’s awards include a prize of $1,500 for the winning entry and publication in the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers online journal, Literary Matters. The runners up each receive a prize of $250.

Congratulations to this year’s winners for their outstanding work!



Nicole Woch

WINNER: Nicole Woch (Stanford Online High School) for “Melville, Anti-Transcendentalism, & Democracy: Moby Dick as a Cautionary Tale.”

Nicole is from Chicago, Illinois, and is currently a freshman at Colorado College, where she plans to study English. At Colorado College she hopes to get involved with the Outdoor Recreation Committee and become a writing tutor at the Writing Center, where she looks forward to building on her writing skills and helping others to do the same.

Nicole’s sponsor is Dr. Margaret Lamont of Stanford Online High School.

Margaret O. Comer

Margaret O. Comer

RUNNER-UP: Margaret O. Comer (Ridgefield High School) for “Fighting the Inevitable,” an essay on Seamus Heaney’s “Blackberry Picking.”

Margaret recently graduated Ridgefield High School and is currently attending Johns Hopkins University, where she is pursuing a major in neuroscience with a minor in English. She hopes to eventually attend medical school, specializing in infectious disease.

Margaret’s sponsors are Ms. Kimberly Benson and Mr. Kevin Higgins Ridgefield High School in Connecticut.

Isabel Griffith-Gorgati

Isabel Griffith-Gorgati

RUNNER-UP: Isabel Griffith-Gorgati (The Winsor School) for “The Bluest Eye: A False Innocence.”

Isabel Griffith-Gorgati is a senior at the Winsor School, where she has most enjoyed taking classes in English, History, and Spanish. As a dual citizen of Brazil and the United States and the head of Winsor’s Latina Affinity group, she is especially fascinated by the power of intellectual dialogue that crosses the boundaries of languages and cultures. This combination of interests will likely lead her to study Comparative Literature in college. She also hopes to continue to be involved in theater.

Her sponsor is Ms. Piya Kashyap of The Winsor School in Boston

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2016 Conference Program Now Available

The program for the Twentieth Annual ALSCW Conference to be held Thursday, October 27 to Sunday, October 30 at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC is now available at this link (click on the title if viewing from the home page then click on the link).

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