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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

National Book Critics Circle Award winner B. H. Fairchild speaks at Syracuse Symposium Nov. 14

Poet known for moving portrayals of working-class Midwesterners

Oct. 31, 2012, by Rob Enslin

B.H. Fairchild
B.H. Fairchild
Syracuse Symposium continues its fall theme of “Memory-Media-Archive” with a special reading by poet B. H. Fairchild. Winner of the prestigious National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Award, Fairchild will speak at the Downtown Syracuse YMCA (340 Montgomery St.) on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. For more information, call 315-443-7192. 

Fairchild’s reading is sponsored by the Downtown Writer’s Center (DWC) of the Arts Branch of the YMCA of Greater Syracuse and by The SU Humanities Center, which organizes and presents Syracuse Symposium for The College of Arts and Sciences and campus community.

“We are proud to partner with the Downtown Writer’s Center to present B.H. Fairchild, known for his moving portrayals of working-class Midwestern communities,” says Gregg Lambert, Dean’s Professor of the Humanities and founding director of The SU Humanities Center. “His poems provide powerful insight into an America that is often overlooked in our modern storytelling.”

Phil Memmer, DWC founder and executive director of the Y Arts Branch, agrees: “Whether it captures a single fleeting moment or a generation’s Zeitgeist, Fairchild’s work preserves how it feels to be human.”

Fairchild is the author of six volumes of poetry, including “Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest” (W.W. Norton & Company, 2002), winner of the NBCC Award, the California Book Award, and the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry; and “The Art of the Lathe” (Alice James Books, 1997), winner of the Beatrice Hawley Award and a finalist for the National Book Award. Fairchild also won Pushcart prizes in 2009 and 2012.

The son of a lathe operator, Fairchild has written extensively about the desolate beauty of his native Kansas and Texas. Much of his work lays at the intersection of physical labor and memory, as explained in an interview with Boston College professor Paul Mariani: “Very often, especially in my later teens and early twenties, I was existing in both worlds at the same time, watching a welder lay down a perfect seam while ‘Madame Bovary’ was walking around in my head, or observing the gleam of a freshly shaped and honed piece of stock while remembering the arc of a Brancusi sculpture.”

Fairchild, whose American aesthetic has been compared to William Carlos Williams’, James Wright’s, and James Dickey’s, serves as professor of English at the University of North Texas.

Launched in 2001, Syracuse Symposium has become a fall tradition at SU, drawing thousands of people to free lectures, panel discussions, performances and exhibitions built on annual themes. Past symposia include “Identity,” “Conflict: Peace and War,” “Migration,” “Justice” and “Light.”

The SU Humanities Center, founded in 2008, fosters public engagement in the humanities, and is home to the Central New York Humanities Corridor; the Watson Visiting Collaborator and Jeanette K. Watson Distinguished Visiting Professorship programs; the HC Mini-Seminar and Syracuse Symposium Seminar series; and other research initiatives, annual fellowships and public programming.