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36th Annual Poetry Festival Opens with Free Reading by Keynote Poet Sean Thomas Dougherty

by Stephen Myers, Ph.D. Oct 22, 2019

The 36th annual DeSales University Poetry Festival will open Thursday, October 24 at 7 pm in the Trexler Room of DeSales University Center with a reading by this year's keynote poet, Sean Thomas Dougherty. The reading is free and open to the public.

Born in New York City and raised in Brooklyn, Ohio, and New Hampshire, Dougherty’s authored 13 books, including The Second O of Sorrow (BOA Editions, 2018), winner of the 2019 Paterson Poetry Prize. His collection Sasha Sings the Laundry on the Line (BOA Editions, 2010) was a finalist for Binghamton University's Milton Kessler Poetry Book Award. His work also appeared in Best American Poetry 2014. He has won a Fulbright fellowship as well as a fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

Dougherty is of that most unique species of poet: his work on the page and his work on stage are both extraordinarily energized, passionate, compassionate, and smart. To a recent interviewer he’s said he writes about “the lived life and the people and places where I live… just writing to get the work down, to say they exist, they existed, they fought hard in this difficult life, continue fighting hard to survive, and that they matter.”

A resident of Erie, Pennsylvania, he works as a medical technician, often with people with a range of disabilities. No surprise, then, that “Why Bother?” and other poems emerge from what he’s termed “the small social moments where someone offers a hand.” That tenderness meets an equal toughness halfway. Read up on Sean Thomas Dougherty, and you’ll come across this ringing assessment, from fellow poet Dorianne Laux, of him as “the gypsy punk heart of American poetry.”

The Poetry Festival will continue the following day, October 25, when DeSales will host some 175 high school students and teachers for a full day of poetry activities.