Former Wick Poetry Center judge, winner recite in Kiva

Jessica Dreschel

Despite having a mini stroke the last time she visited Kent — she stayed in the hospital overnight — poet Jean Valentine was happy to be back on campus.

In better health, Valentine and fellow poet Lee Peterson read yesterday at a poetry reading at the Kiva. The Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Center sponsored the reading.

The poets share an unusual connection: Valentine was a judge in the Wick competition that Peterson won.

“It is a rare thing to judge a contest and find a book you really love,” Valentine said.

Peterson won the 2003 Wick Poetry Prize for her collection, Rooms and Fields: Dramatic Monologues from the War in Bosnia. Her collection was written while on a road trip with college students in Bosnia, Peterson said.

Each poem is written in a different voice, Peterson said. She uses only first names — in Bosnia, often the only way to determine people’s ethnicities is through their last names, and Peterson wanted the poems to reflect all nationalities, she said.

Peterson’s first poem, “National Library,” commemorates a bombing that occurred in Bosnia in 1992. It is told through the eyes of a young Muslim girl at the library when it was bombed. The character also observes the scene from the same bridge that Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated on, Peterson said.

Peterson lives in Iowa City, Iowa. She is a writer-in-residence at Pennsylvania State University at Altoona, Peterson said.

As an introduction into Valentine’s reading, director of the Wick Poetry Center Maggie Anderson called the poetry “dense, meticulous and deeply interesting.”

Valentine read from her collection, Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems 1965-2003. Her readings spanned her entire career.

The first poem Valentine read was about her first love, she said.

In a poem about a hospital stay in New York City, Valentine wrote about an encounter with a doctor. When Valentine told her doctor she was a poet, he sang her a poem he knew by heart, Valentine said.

“It was the best thing that happened,” Valentine said.

Valentine won the 2004 National Book Award for Poetry. Other poets selected her collection as the year’s best.

Valentine lives in New York City and holds poetry workshops at the 92nd Street YMCA.

Contact academic technology reporter Jessica Dreschel at [email protected].