A Night of Poetry with Brad Leithauser and Ryan Wilson


Image courtesy of Vermilion

By Margaret Adams

Poetry lovers and creative minds alike gathered for a special poetry reading from renowned poet, Brad Leithauser, and CUA professor, Dr. Ryan Wilson. Taking place on Tuesday, Nov. 8 in Aquinas 102, the poetry reading was sponsored by CUA’s literary magazine, Vermilion, and the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers. 

CUA English professor Dr. Daniel Gibbons introduced the event and the sponsors, and welcomed Leithauser to the school. Leithauser’s resume includes a long list of incredibly impressive marks: he received a BA from Harvard College in 1975 and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1980, after which he moved to Japan and worked at the Kyoto Comparative Law Center for three years. He has also received a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and has been  awarded Iceland’s Order of the Falcon. Besides his incredibly diverse portfolio, including many books of poetry and essays, he taught at Mount Holyoke College for twenty-one years and now teaches at the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. 

Leithauser approached the stand to introduce Dr. Wilson – he wears multiple hats in his field. Beside teaching at CUA and the M.F.A. program at The University of St. Thomas-Houston, Wilson also serves as Editor-in-Chief of Literary Matters. He is also acting C.F.O. and administrator of the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers (ALSCW), an organization devoted to “promot[ing] excellence in literary criticism and scholarship, and work to ensure that literature thrives in both scholarly and creative environments.” He has also authored multiple books of poetry and translations, including The Stranger World (Measure Press, 2017) and Proteus Bound: Selected Translations, 2008-2020 (Franciscan University Press, 2021). 

While Leithauser mentioned all of Wilson accolades and prizes, he ended his introduction by illustrating how Wilson’s true impact was his friendship; he mentioned that when he taught at Johns Hopkins, he would stay at Wilson’s house and the two would have incredible literary talks that benefited their understandings. 

After the heart-warming introduction, Wilson came up to perform his poetry; he started with some poems from his upcoming book of poetry, Ghost Light. Before each poem, he explained his thinking behind the different forms that he used, and where each central idea for the poem came from. 

He then read from Proteus Bound: Selected Translations (2008-2020); one translation he read was Horace’s ode 111, otherwise known as the “Carpe Diem” poem. 

Later he read from his first poetry book, and has also been published in Dappled Things: “In the Harvest Season.” 

After his last poem, Wilson then introduced Brad Leithauser. He went into more detail about his career, including the fact that Leithauser has been credited with helping to start “new formalism” in American poetry and that he studied with Elizabeth Bishop. Describing Liethauser’s poetry moves with  “Mozartian exuberance,” Wilson also conveyed how meaningful their friendship was to him. 

Leithauser read multiple pieces that had not been published, including a poem written as a lullaby for a newborn for a baby that was brought to the reading. The audience also had the pleasure of listening to a poem he had just written the day before, named “Last Call.” 

The  Q&A portion of the event was filled with hopeful writers wondering how the process of publishing a poetry book works; Wilson and Leithauser discussed how they felt the more honest way of writing a poetry book was to find a theme as you write the poems, rather than starting with a concept to stick to. In fact, Leithauser mentioned that one of the reasons to write is to discover your obsessions. 

The event provided much artistic inspiration and thoughtful insight into the lives of two incredibly talented and awarded artists for future poets and writers.

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