Pulitzer-winning poet Pardlo to give public reading Thursday

Jill Salahub of the Department of English contributed to this report.

Gregory Pardlo — a poet, writer and professor whose book Digest won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry — will be giving a free public reading at CSU on Thursday, Oct. 13.

The event, part of the Creative Writing Reading Series in CSU’s Department of English, will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Lory Student Center, Ballroom 350A.

Gregory Pardlo

In addition to winning the Pulitzer, Digest was shortlisted for the 2015 NAACP Image Award and was a finalist for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. Pardlo’s other honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. His first poetry collection, Totem, was selected by Brenda Hillman for the APR/Honickman Prize in 2007. He is also the author of Air Traffic, a memoir in essays forthcoming from Knopf.

Although reading his poetry now and looking at the list of his awards, honors and publications might make it hard to believe, Pardlo says that at one point he dropped out of Rutgers, having “bought into the stories about African-American boys.” He joined the Marine Reserves, and for several years managed a jazz club owned by his family. Watching the jazz musicians who played at the club, Pardlo started to understand the discipline and respect the hard work it required to be an artist.

“I remember one musician who didn’t particularly care for the business end of things,” he recalls. “He asked me late one night, as the band was packing up, if I planned to be a bar manager for the rest of my life — I was in my early 20s. I said I really wanted to write poems, but that I had to do something for money. He told me, in very colorful language, to commit myself to my craft, and if I did the universe would always help me to support it. He wasn’t wrong.”

Pardlo returned to Rutgers University-Camden and received his B.A. in English then went on to earn his M.F.A. from New York University as a New York Times Fellow in Poetry. He has previously taught at Columbia University, George Washington University, Medgar Evers College, The New School University, John Jay College, Hunter College and NYU. Pardlo joined the faculty of the M.F.A. program in creative writing at Rutgers University-Camden this fall. He lives with his family in Brooklyn.