Poet Gerald Stern

Visting Writer Series Features Poet, Gerald Stern

Monmouth University hosted another Visiting Writers Series eventson Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 4:30 p.m. in Wilson Auditorium. The visiting poet for this installment was Gerald Stern. Stern is an immensely popular poet who has published over a dozen awards for his writings and countless books of poetry with their content being both mind-opening and sentimental as well as witty and thought-provoking.

Michael Thomas, Associate Dean of Humanities and Director of the Visiting Writers Series, explained that Stern was selected for the Visiting Writers Series because “There are very few poets like him left. Also, Gerald Stern is an American Original, a poet who integrates history, both personal and political.”

The event itself started with opening remarks from Thomas. In these remarks, Thomas discussed the importance of art in daily life. “Art sustains us,” he had remarked. He emphasized the true positive effects that art, writing, painting, drawing, and other disciplines have on any human’s state and wellbeing.

Thomas then introduced assistant professor of English, Dr. Mihaela Moscaliuc, who offered some insight and introduction for Stern. Moscaliuc has done very extensive research on Stern’s collections of poetry; therefore, it was only proper and fitting that she gave an introduction for Stern as well.

When Stern finally took stage to start his reading, he announced that he would be reading from his books of poetry Divine Nothingness and his new novel to be released in February called Galaxy Love.

Stern read a large sampling of poems that ranged from the topic of teaching and humor to the serious and historic topic of the Holocaust. The poetry about the Holocaust tends to be some of Stern’s more popular works. This has a lot to do with the fact that Stern holds immense survivor’s guilt.

He explained to the audience that he writes on the Holocaust because he was a Jew who was spared. The Holocaust poetry that Stern writes is very much a comment on his survivor’s guilt and contains some of the most powerful imagery and attitudes.

“Like many writers, he writes out of life-long obsessions and wounds. He writes himself in and out of them, again and again, perhaps as a way of working toward healing while also keeping the wounds raw,” Moscaliuc explained.

The question and answer segment followed immediately after Stern’s reading. The question of the author’s inspiration came up, as it usually does in the Visiting Writers Series readings, and to this Stern had a unique answer. He said, “Like many other things in my poetry, it just happens.”

Dr. Michael Waters, a professor of English, commented on Stern’s inspiration, “Stern doesn’t depend on inspiration as a triggering source for his writing; instead, he is constantly receptive as a creative artist.”

Moscaliuc also commented on Stern’s inspiration, “He was saying there’s so much to write about, always, when you try to live consciously, mindfully, that there’s no need to ‘wait’ for inspiration.”

The audience of this particular reading seemed to be very receptive of Stern’s readings. Thomas claimed, “The audience was one of our best, not just in number—about 140 attendees—but more so in their precise attention.”

Ashley Grenger, a senior health studies student, said, “I really enjoyed seeing a poet present his work and seeing how the emotions in the poem were conveyed touched me.”

“He’s a very engaging writer who weaves comic and dramatic memories into his poetry,” commented Susan Schuld, a junior English and education student. “His sharp wit and vivid imagery capture the audience’s attention and his thought-provoking work leaves them awestruck at his unique perspective.”

Students and faculty alike can mimic Stern’s passion. Now that he is retired and has time, Stern said, “When do I write? All the time.” Nothing stops Stern from writing because it is his passion; and he asserts that students and faculty should never stop doing what they have a passion for.

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