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People’s Poetry Series to bring former Texas poet laureate to ACU

For immediate release
January 15, 2004

Poet Walt McDonald will visit Abilene Christian University Jan. 29-30 to meet with faculty and students as the featured poet in the annual People's Poetry Series.   The reading, which will take place at 8 p.m. in Cullen Auditorium on Thursday, Jan. 29, is free and open to the public. A reception and book signing will follow.

"Walt McDonald has visited ACU before, but it has been more than ten years.  We're lucky to catch him at the pinnacle of a long and distinguished career," said Albert Haley, ACU writer in residence and associate professor of English.  "I’m particularly impressed that one of his poems, 'The Middle Years,' was recently selected by Garrison Keillor for inclusion in an anthology Keillor put together called Good Poems.  Walt McDonald is truly a poet of national stature."

During his writing career, McDonald has published more than 2,300 poems in journals including American Poetry Review, The American Scholar, The Atlantic Monthly, First Things, The Paris Review, London Review of Books, New York Review of Books, Poetry, The Sewanee Review and The Southern Review.   He has received six awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, including the Lon Tinkle Memorial Award for Excellence Sustained Throughout a Career, in 2000.  Four books won Western Heritage Awards from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, including "Whatever the Wind Delivers:  Celebrating West Texas and the Near Southwest." 

McDonald has served as an Air Force pilot in Vietnam, taught at the Air Force Academy and was named Texas Poet Laureate in 2001.  In May 2002, he retired from Texas Tech University as Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of English and Poet in Residence.  He and his wife Carol, who are both native Texans, have three children and seven grandchildren. 

McDonald’s twenty collections of poems include "Climbing the Divide," "Great Lonely Places of the Texas Plains," "All Occasions," "Blessings the Body Gave," "The Flying Dutchman," "Counting Survivors," "Night Landings," and "After the Noise of Saigon."

Paul Engle, former director of the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop, said "Walter McDonald's poems are not pounded out on the typewriter, but beaten out of life.  They taste and breathe and cry."  Poet David Citino said, "These poems help us live our lives.  They teach us right from wrong, these hymns to achingly beautiful wastelands and hardscrabble Edens." 

The People's Poetry Series was established in recent years by the English Department at ACU to bring award-winning poets to Abilene and have them read for an audience numbering in the several hundreds. 

"That’s been our explicit purpose, to take poetry out of the parlor and put it before as many people as possible, even students who haven't decided yet if they like the art form. Once they hear these poets read, they almost always become great fans," said Haley. 

In recent years the series has featured poets Li-Young Lee, Diane Glancy and Pulitzer Prize winner Galway Kinnell.

The public reading and the opportunity for McDonald to visit with English faculty and their classes has been made possible by the John H. Knox Writers Series and these ACU entities: Office of the Provost, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Faculty Development Committee and The Center for Christians and the Arts.

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