THE PLUTZIK SERIES: 50 YEARS OF POETRY AND FICTION AT UR
The Hyam Plutzik Centennial Committee is collaborating with the Rare Books and Special Collections Department of Rush Rhees Library to create an exhibition, opening in Fall 2012, in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Plutzik Reading Series. Phil Witte (UR 2010) will curate the exhibit.
For 50 years, through appearances by nearly 300 poets, novelists, essayists and playwrights, The Plutzik Reading Series has been an important part of the English Department’s creative writing program. Readings have afforded students the opportunity to interface with writers whose works they may have studied, or to discover new writing which will continue to instruct and inspire them in their future work.
The Plutzik Series’ history offers a diverse showcase of some of the century’s finest writers. But because the Series has played such an important role in literary education at the U of R, we wanted to create not merely an assemblage documenting contemporary literature as presented by the Series; our goal is to engage both current and former students in a conversation about contemporary literature, using the Series as forum and subject matter.
The exhibit will highlight the work of some of the Series’s most distinguished Readers from throughout its history, including John Ashbery, Elizabeth Bishop, J.M. Coetzee, Lydia Davis, William Gass, Louise Gluck, James Merrill, and Adrienne Rich. The writers on display will be represented by items in RBSC holdings, such as first editions and broadsides, along with a brief selection (poem or excerpt) from that writer’s body of work.
Accompanying each writer’s display will be a short piece of commentary written by a current or former student of the U of R. Students will be invited to choose a former Plutzik Reader whose work is interesting, challenging, or otherwise meaningful to them, and to submit drafts of a commentary to a workshop and revision process with curator Phil Witte.
ABOUT THE COMMENTARIES
The ideal commentary will be a concise description of the student’s encounter with the chosen text. Such a description can take many forms; it might focus on a single line of a poem, or a poem in its entirety, or a book, or several books. The commentary might pose a question or state an interpretive claim. Whatever the approach, commentators will be encouraged to ground their statements in specific references to the text. There are only two limitations: 1) commentaries must be no longer than 200 words; and 2) each commentary must be limited to discussing the work of one writer only.
From past experience, we expect that the student commentary statements will play a large role in adding vitality and currency to the exhibit. Viewers typically find students’ thoughtful observations very appealing; they hold a power to spark further conversation. Each statement will bear the identity of its author: name, UR class, and major.
WANT TO WRITE MORE THAN ONE COMMENTARY?
Students who are interested in commenting on more than one writer are strongly encouraged to submit multiple commentaries. While we may not be able to include all commentaries in the final display due to space limitations, we will publish all finished pieces online (where they will remain accessible beyond the closing of the exhibition).
WE WELCOME NON-STUDENTS
In view of the fact that the Series has always been open to the public and admission has been free of charge, we are pleased to invite commentaries from faculty, staff, and Rochester community members, in addition to students and alumni. Anyone interested should follow the instructions below.
HOW TO CONTRIBUTE
Participants should send an email the curator, Phil Witte, at email@example.com. In the email, please briefly answer the following questions:
- General information
- If a current UR student: what is your class year and major?
- If not a student: describe your current or past affiliation with UR, if any.
- Describe briefly your interest in literature and/or the Plutzik Series.
- Choose 5 writers from the list below.
- Note: Commentators need not be at all familiar with a given poet’s work from the outset—we will be glad to offer reading suggestions to help you get started. We urge you to explore the unknown!
NEW! TIE-IN BLOG SERIES
Leading up to the exhibition, the 50/100 blog, a fistful of words, will include a weekly feature discussing the work of one past Reader in the Plutzik Series. Students writing commentaries are invited to contribute pieces to the blog–a good place to test out some ideas for the commentaries, or an opportunity to expound your comments at greater length than the exhibit’s 200-word limit. As always, interested students and alumni should email the curator (who is also the blog administrator), Phil Witte.
FEATURED WRITERS—THIS LIST IS NOT FINAL
This list includes 50 of the 281 featured Plutzik Series Readers to date. Space restrictions will allow us to include no more than 40 writers. By responding to question 3) above, this is your chance to help us decide which writers should be included. The full, chronological listing of Series readers can be found here.
NOVELISTS, PLAYWRIGHTS, ESSAYISTS