October 8, 2019

Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts presents the biennial Princeton Poetry Festival

blue book with 80x80 on coverOne of many 2019-20 events marking the 80th anniversary of Princeton’s Program in Creative Writing

The 2019 Princeton Poetry Festival, a biennial event, will be presented by Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts beginning at 12:00 p.m. on October 25 and continuing through 6:00 p.m. on October 26. The two-day series of readings, panel discussions, lectures and performances by an international roster of twelve award-winning poets will be held in the Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center. The poetry festival is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

The Princeton Poetry Festival is organized by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Princeton’s Howard G.B. Clark ’21 University Professor in the Humanities, and founding chair of the Lewis Center Paul Muldoon.  The 2019 festival will showcase poets from the U.S., Jamaica, the Kumeyaay Nation, North Macedonia, Sri Lanka, and Ukraine.

pico with head on hand in hoodie and leather jacket

Poet Tommy Pico. Photo by Niqui Carter

The festival continues a year-long celebration of the 80th anniversary of Princeton’s Program in Creative Writing with readings by 80 writers.

Seven poets from the United States include Ellen Bass, a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and winner of three Pushcart Prizes and The Lambda Literary Award; poet, novelist, and cohost of The Poet Salon podcast, Gabrielle Bates; poet/playwright/songwriter and cofounder of the Cave Canem Foundation, Cornelius Eady; Kimiko Hahn, winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship, PEN/Voelcker Award, Shelley Memorial Prize and the president of the board of The Poetry Society of America; Dora Malech, an assistant professor in The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and former director of the Iowa Youth Writing Project; Harryette Mullen, recipient of the Academy of American Poets Fellowship and a professor of African American literature and creative writing in the English Department at UCLA; and Ben Purkert, an editor at Guernica and a curator for Back Draft, an interview series about poetry and revision.

ishion with head on hand in white shirt with lace collar

Poet Ishion Hutchinson. Photo by Neil Watson

International poets include Indran Amirthanayagam from Sri Lanka, who writes poetry in English, Spanish, French, Haitian Creole and Portuguese and won the 1994 Paterson Poetry Prize; Lidija Dimkovska of North Macedonia, who has published six poetry books, three novels, an American diary, and a short story collection translated into numerous languages; Jamaican poet Ishion Hutchinson, recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Award, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature; Ukrainian-born poet Vasyl Makhno; whose poems, short stories and essays have been translated into 25 languages and is the 2013 recipient of Serbia’s Povele Morave Prize in Poetry and BBC Book of the Year Award 2015; and Tommy “Teebs” Pico, winner of a 2018 American Book Award, finalist for the 2018 Lambda Literary Award, originally from the Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay nation.

“One of the most significant aspects of poetry,” notes Muldoon, “is that it is a worldwide phenomenon. It allows all of us to learn more about an unfamiliar culture (or even a familiar one), than any number of history books, sociological studies, documentary films or reality television shows.”

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Poet Kimiko Hahn. Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

The panel discussions will explore “poetry and pressure,” which Muldoon notes will consider, “a range of interpretations of that phrase, be it having to do with a sense of social responsibility, the structural engineering of a poem, or restrictions of freedom of speech.”


The Festival opens on Friday, October 25 at 12:00 p.m. with a Gala Opening Reading featuring all twelve poets with an introduction by Muldoon. The day continues at 1:30 p.m. with a panel entitled Poetry and Pressure, moderated by Paul Muldoon with Ellen Bass, Gabrielle Bates, Lidija Dimkovska, Vasyl Makhno, Dora Malech, and Harryette Mullen.

A reading at 3:00 p.m. featuring Indran Amirthanayagam, Kimiko Hahn, Ishion Hutchinson, and Tommy Pico will be introduced by Monica Youn, Lecturer in Creative Writing in the Lewis Center for the Arts.

The day concludes at 4:30 p.m. with “Words and Music,” a performance by the Cornelius Eady Trio, featuring National Book Award-winning and Pulitzer Prize-nominated poet Cornelius Eady with musicians Lisa Liu and Charlie Rauh, that blends poetry paired with musical arrangements.


Saturday’s schedule begins at 12:30 p.m. with a lecture by Tommy Pico, titled “Natives to the Front: Contemporary Native American Poetry,” and introduced by James Richardson, Professor of Creative Writing in the Lewis Center.

At 2:00 p.m., Michael Dickman, Lecturer in Creative Writing in the Lewis Center, will introduce another reading featuring poets Gabrielle Bates, Cornelius Eady, Dora Malech, and Ben Purkert.

At 3:30 p.m., Muldoon returns to moderate the second Poetry and Pressure panel with Indran Amirthanayagam, Cornelius Eady, Kimiko Hahn, Ishion Hutchinson, Tommy Pico, and Ben Purkert.

At 5:00 p.m., the 2019 Princeton Poetry Festival concludes with a reading by Ellen Bass, Lidija Dimkovska, Vasyl Makhno, and Harryette Mullen. The 22nd U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor of the Humanities, and Chair of Lewis Center for the Arts, will introduce the reading.


Princeton University has a longstanding tradition of nurturing poets. From Revolutionary War poet Philip Morin Freneau, class of 1771, to major post-war poets William Ralph Meredith ’40, Galway Kinnell ’48, and W.S. Merwin ’48, to Monica Youn ’93, and Jenny Xie ’08, hundreds of renowned graduates have studied poetry and creative writing at Princeton. Today, poetry continues to thrive at Princeton under the direction of such renowned poets and professors as Michael Dickman, Paul Muldoon, James Richardson, Tracy K. Smith, Susan Wheeler, Monica Youn, and a number of guest and visiting writers.

To learn more about the Lewis Center for the Arts and the more than 100 public theater and dance performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, concerts and lectures presented each year by the Lewis Center, most of them free, visit

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