Pulitzer Prize poet to come to UNA

The Department of English will have a poet in the 2017 Writer’s Series. UNA will welcome 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Peter Balakian March 16.

The event is free and open to the public. All students are welcome to attend.

The Writer’s Series will be an all-day event. The book reading will be in the Guillot University Center Performance Center at 11 a.m. followed by a reception and book signing in the GUC Loft at 12:15 p.m.

This will be the first year the series will host a writer’s workshop in the Stone Lodge at 4 p.m.

Pamela Kingsbury, a UNA English instructor, said now is a good time to have a poet in the series.

“We always have a wish list of writers that (the English professors) want to bring to UNA, and we’re always aware of what books are doing well,” Kingsbury said.

Balakian is an Armenian-American who won the Pulitzer Prize for poems entitled in “Ozone Journal.”

Balakian’s “Ozone Journal” is a collection of 54 short poems pertaining to “the history of atrocity (and) trauma,” according to Balakian’s personal website peterbalakian.com.

The poems detail Balakian’s experience of excavating the bones of Armenian genocide victims in the Syrian Desert.

“Balakian is interesting as a poet because he started out as a history major,” Kingsbury said. “He’s very interesting on a lot of levels for that reason.”

Kingsbury said in past years, the Writer’s Series hosted multiple fiction writers. Balakian’s poems provide variety because he combines history and family stories in his writing.

Senior Bethany Pierce said it is important to hear from people in the field.

“It’s great to have diverse authors,” she said. “People often think poetry is something old, but it’s not.”

Balakian might motivate students, said freshman Damion Johnson.

“(The Writer’s Series event) could inspire someone who might have aspirations to be a journalist or poet to follow their dreams,” Johnson said.

Alabama Humanities and Alabama State Council for the Arts gave the English department grants to fund the event to help make it an all-day event, Kingsbury said.

“We have a line item in the university’s budget, and we also went outside (of the university) and asked for additional money,” Kingsbury said.

Kingsbury said she hopes the students who attend the event realize they can make a name for themselves just like Balakian did, regardless of where they are from.

“You don’t have to be from New York or Chicago to be a writer,” she said. “You can be from a smaller area and still make a contribution to literature.”