* Cancer Culture & Community
* Oncological Sciences Center
* College of Liberal Arts
* Academy of American Poets

October 20, 209

Former U.S. Poet Laureate to give reading at Purdue's Cancer Culture & Community symposium

Donald Hall
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Former U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall, a prolific writer who has been compared to Robert Frost, will deliver a reading of his works at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5 on campus as part of Purdue University's annual Cancer Culture & Community Colloquium.

Hall, who served as the nation's 14th poet laureate from 2006-07, will highlight a weeklong focus on Purdue's cancer research and academic programs by exploring the human expression of cancer through literature and the arts.

His reading, scheduled for Stewart Center's Fowler Hall, will be preceded by an interdisciplinary performance inspired by Hall's work that features dance, music and video. Participating artists are Purdue dance faculty members Rebecca Bryant, Carol Cunningham-Sigman and Sally Wallace; video artist Kathy Evans; guest dancer Ron Estes; and percussionists Ray Castrey and Don Nichols.

A book signing and reception will follow in the Stewart Center Gallery.

"Donald Hall's celebrated book of poems, 'Without,' was written for his wife, Jane Kenyon, also an award-winning poet who died of leukemia in 1995," said event co-organizer Marietta Harrison, director of Purdue's Oncological Sciences Center in Discovery Park. "The poems celebrate a marriage of deep intimacy and great happiness. Hall speaks to us all about grief - as a loving husband and as a poet lamenting the death of a poet."

An exhibit of artworks, inspired by Hall's poetry and prose, by Purdue's Visual and Performing Arts students and faculty will run from Nov. 2-13 in Pao Hall's Rueff Galleries. Creating Hope, a project that exhibits art created by community residents and students, also is planned Nov. 5 and 6 in the Purdue Memorial Union, Room 118.

All events are free and open to the public.

"Purdue has effectively engaged the entire Lafayette-West Lafayette community since we launched Cancer Culture & Community in 2007," Harrison said. "This year, teachers at Lafayette Jefferson High School, Klondike Middle School and other schools are participating by providing cancer-inspired artwork for the community Creating Hope exhibit. We encourage interested individuals to submit original art that honors the journey of those whose lives have been affected by cancer. Submissions are being accepted through the end of October."

Hall, who started writing poetry at 14 and was educated at Harvard, Oxford and Stanford, has published 15 books of poetry, beginning with "Exiles and Marriages" in 1955. In 2006 he released "White Apples and the Taste of Stone," a selection of poems from 1946-2006. 

For his poems, Hall has received the Lenore Marshall/Nation Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the 1990 Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America and the Ruth Lilly Prize for Poetry.

In 2005 he published "The Best Day The Worst Day," an intimate record of his 23-year marriage to Kenyon. Among Hall's 20 books of prose on subjects ranging from baseball to children's stories, "Ox-Cart Man" won the Caldecott Medal in 1980.

While teaching at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Hall met Kenyon, and the two married in 1972. Three years after they were wed, they moved to Eagle Pond Farm, his grandparents' family farm in rural Wilmot, N.H.

In 1989 Hall was diagnosed with colon cancer. Surgery followed, but by 1992 the cancer had metastasized to his liver. After another operation and chemotherapy, he went into remission, though he was told he only had a 1-in-3 chance of surviving the next five years.

In early in 1994, Kenyon was diagnosed with leukemia. Her illness, her death 15 months later and Hall's struggle to come to terms with it were the subject of the 1998 book of poetry "Without." Its first poem, "Kill the Day," stands among Hall's most critically acclaimed, with its lament: "How many times will he die in his own lifetime?"

Cancer Culture & Community is sponsored by the Oncological Sciences Center, Office of the Provost, College of Liberal Arts, Purdue Center for Cancer Research, Department of English, Patti and Rusty Reuff Department of Visual and Performing Arts, and Division of Dance.

Discovery Park's Oncological Sciences Center, in partnership with the College of Liberal Arts, launched the annual Cancer Culture & Community initiative in 2007 to explore how the arts and literature provide an outlet of expression to those struggling with cancer.

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133,

Source: Marietta Harrison, 765-494-1442,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Note to Journalists: Journalists who would like to schedule an interview with poet Donald Hall in conjunction with his visit to Purdue should contact Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133,

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