Poetry reading remembers WSU poet, teacher April 13

Poetry written by the late Ruth Slonim will highlight an April 13 program to remember the popular Washington State University English faculty member, who died Feb. 16 at the age of 87.

The event, which will take place at 3 p.m. in Avery Hall’s Bundy Reading Room, “honors the long and productive career of Ruth Slonim at WSU and in the national community of teachers, scholars and writers,” said George Kennedy, chair of the Department of English.

Student musicians from the Department of Music will play before and after the readings from some of Miss Slonim’s poetry. The readers include Virginia Hyde, a now retired WSU English professor; Peter Chilson, an associate professor of English; Jamie Swenson, a senior English major and student writer; and Linda Kittell, a senior instructor of creative writing at WSU. A reception will follow.

For more than two decades Miss Slonim organized weekly public poetry readings for the English department. She also was responsible for bringing several major poets, including Gwendolyn Brooks, Richard Hugo, W.H. Auden and Galway Kinnell, to the WSU campus over the years. A poetry corner at WSU’s Holland/New Library was named in honor of the emeritus English professor in 1997.

Miss Slonim studied poetry with Czeslaw Milosz and knew great writers of her time, including Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Louise Bogan, Langston Hughes, Brooks and Auden.

“Ruth Slonim represented what is the very best in education at WSU,” said Kennedy. “She was a remarkably versatile and productive scholar, writing widely about English literary studies, but focusing happily on the creative side with a wonderfully prolific canon of marvelous poetry.”

Her poetry received wide acclaim. Her 1955 work, “London: An Appreciation,” brought praise from abroad, including an acknowledgment from Sir Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II. It, too, inspired a composition by C. Bosanquet that was performed in London in 1965.

Veteran San Francisco columnist Herb Caen called her third volume of poetry, “San Francisco: ‘The City’ in Verse,” a “deft and beautiful book” when it appeared in 1965. Her fourth volume of poetry, “Outer Traces,

Inner Places,” was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. Her other books include “Sketchings” “and “Proems and Poems.”

Miss Slonim received a 1988 Washington Governor’s Arts Award for her “outstanding achievement and contribution to the arts in the state of Washington.” Then Governor Booth Gardner congratulated her for a prestigious career and her efforts to encourage countless young writers to pursue their literary endeavors.

The reading and reception are sponsored by the English department.

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