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Memorial reading to feature Pulitzer winner

| Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Department of English’s inaugural Ernest Sandeen Memorial Reading will bring together both established and up-and-coming talent Wednesday in McKenna Hall at 7:30 p.m. The reading will honor Sandeen, a former Notre Dame faculty member, and will feature U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer prize-winner Philip Levine and University of Illinois at Chicago professor Christina Pugh.

In keeping with Sandeen’s legacy as a poet and a teacher, the English department selected Levine, who in turn selected a younger poet, Pugh, to read on the same night, according to a University press release.

“The idea behind it is to make it stand out from other kinds of poetry reading,” professor of English William O’Rourke said. “To make [Sandeen’s] readings stand out … we select an older poet and then the older poet gets to choose a younger poet to come read with the older poet and that gives it a little bit of distinction.”

“Philip Levine was available and he’s about as distinguished an older poet as we have in America right now,” O’Rourke said. “He also comes from Michigan and has a kind of working class background, more so than is sometimes true in the poetry world, and so his poetry has some of the same social concerns as [Sandeen] did. We figured he would be a good one to start the series with, and he selected Christina Pugh.”

Pugh is a consulting editor for the publication “Poetry,” according to a press release. Pugh will be reading from her latest work, “Grains of the Voice” and another work, “Restoration.”

“I am thrilled to be reading with Philip Levine,” Pugh said.  “… I’ve enjoyed his work for many years and have found it to be some of the most moving work that’s out there. I can strongly remember my first experience of hearing him read in Boston and how overwhelming an experience that was, and it’s just wonderful to have the opportunity to read with him. I’m really grateful.”

O’Rourke recalled the salon Sandeen and his wife, Eileen, would host at their house for members of the Department of English, including students, many of which Sandeen continued to keep in touch with after their graduation and his retirement.

Sandeen taught for 50 years at Notre Dame and won the 1976 College of Arts and Letters’ Sheedy Award for Excellence in Teaching, according to a press release. O’Rourke said Sandeen had already retired when he began teaching at Notre Dame but he continued writing and influencing the literary community of South Bend. O’Rourke said he believed the Ernest Sandeen Endowment Fund will provide for the biannual Ernest Sandeen Memorial Reading, which will partially sponsor the Wednesday event, to continue into the future, bringing older and younger poets together at Notre Dame for years to come.

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