KSU alumnus shares poems, inspiration

Justin Armburger

As Maggie Anderson walked to the podium, the crowd of more than 80 people quickly quieted down.

“It is an honor for me to introduce you to Kent State alumnus Rick Hilles,” said Anderson, director of the Wick Poetry Center.

Hilles, who received his bachelor’s degree and Master of Liberal Studies degree from Kent State, read his poems last night in Room 306 in the Kent Student Center in the second reading of the Wick Poetry Reading Series.

“It’s been an amazing homecoming,” Hilles said to his audience. “The kind of thing I may have fantasized about.”

Hilles, who is now an assistant professor of English at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, read poems from his poetry collection, Brother Salvage, which won the 2005 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize.

The book was also named the 2006 ForeWord Magazine Poetry Book of the Year.

Hilles, who has had poems published in Harper’s Poetry, The Nation and The New Republic, read works such as “Preparing for Flight” (which began with a line from Steve Martin’s movie The Jerk), “The Last Blue Light” (a poem about two members of the Kent State community who died in a plane crash) and “Brother Salvage: A Genizah.”

“Brother Salvage: A Genizah,” tells the true story of brothers split up during the Holocaust. One brother lived through it, while the other died in a concentration camp.

Through the three sections of the poem, Hilles narrates the account of how the surviving brother came to find what actually happened to his brother.

Hilles told the crowd he wouldn’t normally read this poem to a crowd, but because Kent State feels like home to him, he was comfortable in doing so.

Anderson said that having Hilles come back to Kent State after all of his success to share his poems should prove an inspiration to students.

“He’s succeeded in a larger world,” Anderson said.

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Justin Armburger at [email protected].