By Susan Tuz
The Sherman Playhouse hosts distinguished poets on June 30 when Voices of Poetry presents 2001-2006 Poet Laureate of Connecticut Marilyn Nelson and Cave Canem Foundation graduate fellow Kate Rushin.
Nelson and Rushin will be joined by poets David Cappella, Stephen Ostrowski, Charles Rafferty, Neil Silberblatt, and Faith Vicinanza, along with vocalist and guitarist Gale Gardiner.
The Sunday event, “Voices of Poetry — Back to The Playhouse (II),” starts at 2 p.m. with a suggested donation of $20/individual and $30/couple. Students under 20 attend free.
This is Voices of Poetry’s anniversary celebration. A champaign toast and anniversary cake will follow the readings.
Formed in 2012 by Neil Silberblatt, the group has some 290 members and has presented events throughout Litchfield, Fairfield and Hartford counties.
This will be the third VOP event held at The Sherman Playhouse under the patronage of playhouse president Robin Frome.
“In June 2012, a handful of local poets and I read our work at a gathering at Bank Street Coffee House in New Milford,” Silberblatt recalled.
“I could not possibly have imaged at that time how the events have blossomed since then,” he said. “Poets have come forward, known and not well-known. Audience response has been great.”
Silberblatt added, “The thought that Marilyn Nelson would be reading at one of our events never crossed my mind.”
Nelson, 66, is the author and translator of 15 books and five chapbooks. She has garnered numerous awards.
Professor Emerita of English at University of Connecticut Storrs and chancellor of The Academy of American Poets, she was the 2012 recipient of “The Frost Medal,” The Poetry Society of America’s award for “distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry.”
On graduating from the University of California-Davis in 1970, Nelson set out to write the cultural story of those who history had forgotten — the overlooked and disenfranchised of this nation.
In that quest, she became a revisionist historian whose writing strives to educate a generation of Americans.
“I remember a discussion I had with one of my professors at Davis about how it was the responsibility of our generation of writers to create a new mythology for the country,” Nelson recalled. “America had outgrown the old myth.”
“I’d grown up with parents who were passionately committed to keeping African American history alive, long before the time of Black History Month,” she said. “It is still heartbreaking for me to see how ignorant many Americans are about our country.”
Rushin also strives to tell an untold story. Hers is the voice of a radical black feminist.
She has received the Rose Low Rome Memorial Poetry Prize and the Grolier Poetry Prize.
Author of “The Black Back-Up,” her “The Bridge Poem” appears in the feminist anthology “This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color:”
Rushin teaches creative writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and formerly taught at Wesleyan University.
“On the 30th, I will read a series of poems inspired by (opera singer) Marian Anderson’s studio,” Rushin said. “The series was commissioned for the International Festival of Arts and Ideas. By focusing on Anderson, the works bring Connecticut history into a larger historical context.”