This past Tuesday Sept. 6 began this fall’s first installment of the Jerome Stern Reading Series at The Bark. The event featured live poetry readings by nationally acclaimed local poets Barbara Hamby and David Kirby. The poets read previously published selections from their titles as well as newer pieces that were inspired by life experiences, both new and distant.
Long before the event began, the venue was full of expectant guests who arrived to experience Hamby and Kirby’s poetry. There was standing room only by the time the readings started, and the guests quieted themselves as soon as the authors began to speak. “A lot of the people here are current and former students of [Kirby] duck [Hamby]said sophomore Lauren Robinson. “They both teach at Florida State, so the students came out here to hear their works, wish them well, enjoy their presence and see poetry in practice outside of the classroom setting.”
Hamby has several books of poetry that have been published over the last few decades — the latest of which is titled “Holoholo.” She received her MA at Florida State University in 1981 and has continued to leave a lasting mark on Florida State’s creative writing department. Kirby, her husband, has been with Florida State for several decades as well, with dozens of his books having been published over the years. His latest book of poetry is titled “Help Me, Information.”
The authors took turns reading their selections in an alternating pattern as the crowd listened eagerly, and each selection was met with robust applause by onlookers and patrons who stood or sat as close as they could to the stage to watch and listen.
When asked what she would like to share with FSView’s readers, Hamby said, “I don’t believe in writer’s block. You just have to be aware of what’s going on inside of you. As a teacher, my students will tell me stories about their days, their lives and experiences and I’ll say, ‘That’s your poetry,’ and they’d never even consider it. Poetry’s door is always open.”
The Jerome Stern Reading Series is sponsored by Florida State University’s Creative Writing department in honor of the late Jerome “Jerry” Stern, a beloved creative writing and literature professor who advocated for public reading. The series exists to encourage public reading as a practice by students, their instructors and any person who composes writing, whether it’s poetry or prose.
Bayard Stern, the son of the late Jerome Stern attended the event. “It’s amazing after over 25 years, people come out every Tuesday night and listen to amazing writing, and that there’s a culture at FSU where people show up to participate in literature. It’s really incredible,” Stern said.
Stern went on to comment on how the event has served as a beautiful tribute to his father. “Even when you think there’s not going to be a huge turnout, there always is, and it’s astonishing that people have continued to show support for so long. It’s a real tribute to the culture that Jerry started building in the beginning. [Kirby] and Jerry shared an office together, so to have him here to begin the series for this season is a wonderful thing.”
The series has seen a large number of distinguished guests in years past and continues to exist as a gateway for undergraduate and graduate students from FSU’s English Department to read their work aloud to audiences who are active participants in keeping the spirit of literature alive at FSU.