September, 2011 - The University of Rochester’s Department of English is proud to announce a year-long celebration to honor the 50th Anniversary of the Plutzik Poetry Series and the Centennial of the birth of Hyam Plutzik (1911-1962). Plutzik, a poet and Pulitzer Prize finalist, was Deane Professor of Poetry and Rhetoric at the University until his untimely death in 1962. In the 1930s, Plutzik graduated from Trinity College and pursued graduate studies at Yale University, returning to Yale during the 1954-55 academic year when he received a Ford Foundation Faculty Fellowship to study the relationship between poetry, science, and philosophy.

Readings by prominent American and international poets as well as University faculty will take place during the Plutzik Poetry Series’ 2011-12 season. The Series was inaugurated in his honor in 1962 and is the longest continuously running collegiate reading program in the country. The 50/100 celebration will also include UR-sponsored events in various locations, dubbed Plutzik Series Readings “on the road.” The events will also recognize the fall 2011 publication by Wesleyan University Press of a new edition of Plutzik’s poetry collection, Apples from Shinar, which Wesleyan originally published in 1959.


At University of Rochester – Award-winning poets scheduled to read in the 50thanniversary series include Yusef Komunyakaa (October 11), Eavan Boland (November 10), and Mark Strand (April 7). They are joined by UR professors and writers James Longenbach, Joanna Scott, Jennifer Grotz, and Stephen Schottenfeld for Meliora Weekend 2011 (Oct 21).

On the Road –Several Plutzik “Readings on the Road” featuring major speakers are in the planning stages, including events in New York City and in Miami. These will be co-sponsored by the UR English Department, the UR Office of Alumni Relations, the Plutzik 50/100 Centennial Committee, and other partners.


Two exhibits will be mounted at the Rush-Rhees Library, where the Hyam Plutzik Library for Contemporary Writing is housed alongside Plutzik’s own literary archives. The exhibits – focusing on Plutzik’s life and work, as well as the accomplishments of the Plutzik Poetry Series – will be curated by a Library-based team led by Richard Peek, Director, and Phyllis Andrews, Manuscript Librarian, Rare Books, Special Collections & Preservation.

The first exhibit, Hyam Plutzik: Poet, will be on display from September 5 to December 31, 2011. Curated by Sergei Kriskov (UR 2012), the main exhibit will focus on Plutzik’s life and work. The exhibit will also include UR Students Read Plutzik, a two-case interpretive display curated by Sarah Young (UR 2013), with responses to Plutzik’s poetry written by ten UR students and alumni, along with broadsides of Plutzik’s poetry.

The second exhibit, curated by Patrick Daubert (Class of 2011), celebrates the 50thanniversary of the Plutzik Poetry Series. This exhibit, highlighting selected works of the nearly 300 authors who have read in the series over the years, will be on display from February 12 to December 31, 2012. Recordings of major poets reading Plutzik’s work will also be featured.


Hyam Plutzik: American Poet, a documentary directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Christine Choy and Ku-Ling Siegel, will be screened during Meliora Weekend. The film includes rare archival footage from the University campus, interviews with UR faculty members, both current and retired, and interviews with leading American poets including Donald Hall, Galway Kinnell, and Grace Schulman, and the late Hayden Carruth and Stanley Kunitz. The interview with the 99-year-old Kunitz, conducted shortly before his death, is widely believed to be his last, and features him reading and discussing one of Plutzik’s poems and talking about the importance of poetry.


Continuing a series tradition of interdisciplinary collaboration, the 50/100 celebration will include musical events, on campus and “on the road” to honor Hyam Plutaik, including the premiere of two major new works, one by composer and Dean of the Eastman School Douglas Lowry, and another by Eastman Alumni composer Jeffery Briggs (ESM ’79). Briggs’ work is a setting for orchestra and orator of “Two Poems of Hyam Plutzik.” Lowry’s piece is a setting for soprano of Plutzik’s iconic poem, “On Hearing That My Poems Were Being Studied in a Distant Place.” Award-winning composer Samuel Adler’s work “Canto V,” originally commissioned for the dedication of the Interfaith Chapel at the University of Rochester, will also be performed; it is a setting of material from Plutzik’s book, Apples from Shinar, which will be republished by Wesleyan University Press this fall.


In Spring 2012, a dramatic reading of Hyam Plutzik’s long poem “Horatio” will be presented by Nigel Maister, Artistic Director of the UR International Theatre Program. Based on the life of Horatio, a character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the work has not been performed in public since the 1980s, when Nobel Prize winner Joseph Brodsky translated parts of it into Russian and presented it in Moscow. Horatio was published by Atheneum in 1961, which earned Plutzik finalist status for the Pulitzer Prize.


The 50/100 celebratory year will be marked by several publications:

A new edition of Apples from Shinar, a collection originally published in 1959 in Wesleyan’s acclaimed Poetry Series. The Wesleyan Poetry Series was originally edited by former U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall. With an Afterword by noted Yale Shakespeare scholar, David Scott Kastan, the book is expected to, in the words of Wesleyan, “bring a new generation to the work of Hyam Plutzik”;

A Centennial Program, which features a history of the Plutzik Poetry Series by Jarold Ramsey, including an overview of the nearly 300 award-winning readers who have visited the University of Rochester since 1962. Ramsey is an accomplished poet who was director of the Plutzik Poetry Series for more than 30 years; he will return to campus as a special series guest in 2011-12.


THE BETSY HOTEL(Miami Beach): Teamed with Books & Books and the University of Wynwood, along with other Miami-based collegiate partners, The Betsy will sponsor a series of literary events in South Beach throughout the 50/100 period including artist residencies, readings, symposia, and salons.


Since 1962, the University of Rochester has been celebrating the life and poetic achievements of Hyam Plutzik (1911-1962), critically acclaimed poet and UR faculty member, by bringing the Rochester community readings by the finest contemporary literary artists. The Plutzik Poetry Series is one of the most prestigious and longest-running reading series in the country. Over the years, the Plutzik Poetry Series has featured a vast array of poets and fiction writers, the famous and not-yet famous.

Readers in the Plutzik Poetry Series over the years have included Rita Dove, Ralph Ellison, Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, Louise Gluck, and Salman Rushdie, among many others. The full list includes 29 poets who had won, or went on to win, the Pulitzer Prize. Series events have included participation by presenters in a range of arts disciplines. In keeping with Hyam Plutzik’s generosity of spirit and commitment to bringing poetry to the Rochester community, the Plutzik Poetry Series readings have always been open to the public and offered free of charge.


As a teacher, Plutzik created a solid place for poetry in the English Department at the University of Rochester and in Upstate New York, where he remained all his professional life. He taught poetry workshops and gave weekly poetry readings, composing poems for special occasions. After 19 years of service, upon his death in 1962, the University of Rochester established the Plutzik Poetry Series. In 1999, the Plutzik Library for Contemporary Writing was dedicated, and in 2004, Plutzik was recognized in a campus publication as one of the most outstanding teachers in the University’s history.

Throughout his career, Plutzik published poems in journals and magazines such as Poetry, Yale Review, Antioch Review, Kenyon Review, Sewanee Review, Prairie Schooner, Accent, and The Nation. In 1950, he received for Aspects of Proteus one of six awards given by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1951, he shared the California Borestone Mountain Poetry Award with Rolfe Humphries, and in 1959, received the University of Rochester’s Lillian P. Fairchild Award for Apples from Shinar. In 1954, Plutzik received a Ford Foundation Faculty Fellowship to explore the relationship between poetry, science, and philosophy. Important themes throughout Plutzik’s writings include poetry and science as modes of expression, the paradoxes of historical time and eternity, and questions of Jewish identity. He also translated and wrote prayers used in Jewish liturgies. In 1961, shortly before his death, Atheneum published Horatio, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.