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Major speakers coming to Binghamton

Linguist Noam Chomsky and U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser will speak on campus in March, giving the University community opportunities to interact with two world-class intellectuals.

Chomsky, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor considered the father of modern linguistics, is also a longtime activist for peace and social justice.

Herbert Bix, professor of history and sociology, said he decided two years ago to invite Chomsky to speak on campus.

“This is a man who has published over 70 books and has been at the forefront of so many important peace and social justice activities and has been an intellectual leader recognized by people all over the world,” Bix said. “Noam Chomsky is perhaps the most important and influential intellectual in America today.”

Chomsky’s March 4 talk, titled “Imminent Crises: Paths Toward Solutions,&rdquo

; is among the anti-war activities that will mark the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

His most recent book, Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World, is a series of interviews with radio journalist David Barsamian in which Chomsky discusses the war in Iraq and related topics.

Kooser, an Iowa native who was named poet laureate in 2004, is the author of several collections of poetry and prose. He’s a retired life insurance executive.

Maria Mazziotti Gillan, director of the creative writing program and professor of poetry, told Kooser in April that he had won the Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award. “I e-mailed him and asked him to come to read and he said ‘yes,’” she recalled. “And the next day he won the Pulitzer Prize.”

Mazziotti Gillan got back in touch with him to offer her congratulations and see if he woul

d still come to Binghamton. He said he would, and so it is that the poet laureate and winner of the most recent Pulitzer for poetry will be in Binghamton, not only for a reading but also for a workshop with members of the University community.

“I think he very much believes in poetry that is meant for people and talks about ordinary life and ordinary situations,” Mazziotti Gillan said.

Indeed, many considered Kooser’s work too accessible to win the Pulitzer Prize. The book that won the Pulitzer, 2004’s Delights & Shadows, focuses on the magic of everyday life.

Mazziotti Gillan called the Pulitzer the “Good Artskeeping” seal of approval. “I find that the Pulitzer Prize is something that people are impressed by,” she said, “and therefore they’re willing to come out and hear the person even if they’re not poetry people.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08