U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine surrounded by students in Tawes Hall. Photo by Colby Smith.

By Colby Smith

Staff Writer

When Allen Ginsberg performed at poetry readings in the 1960s, he encouraged all in attendance to sit on the floor and establish an atmosphere of peace and brotherhood. Ginsberg would have been proud of the students who attended Wednesday’s Writers’ Here and Now event, the first of the 2011-2012 season.

Over 50 students, with nowhere else to sit in the crowded Ulrich Recital Room of Tawes Hall, gathered on the stage to hear author Carmen Boullosa and U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine read their work aloud.

The event began with a question and answer session with Boullosa at Dorchester Hall. Boullosa,a Mexican native accomplished in fiction, poetry, plays and newspaper columns, spoke at length about her various projects and her own writing process.

“I sometimes think I’m more like an archeologist,” she said.

She said her characters take on lives of their own, and she must dig around to learn more about each one.

Students praised Boullosa’s answers and spoke highly of her down-to-earth manner, as well as her openness in answering questions.

After a short reception with food and drinks at Dorchester, the reading began promptly at 7:15 p.m. Boullosa took the stage first, reading her short story, “The Poet’s Ghost,” which was published in Mexico in 2007 and came to the U.S. the following year.

Philip Levine read a few poems next. Levine has been publishing poetry for nearly 40 years. After winning scores of awards, such as the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, he is now serving as the 2011-2012 U.S. Poet Laureate.

Levine charmed the packed auditorium with his constant joking.

“I’ve been getting way too much attention lately,” he said. “Now that I’m the poet laureate I have to go out and by some clothes.”

He read a total of eight poems, including, “The Sea We Read About,” “The Poem of Chalk” and “On the Meeting of Garcia Lorca and Hart Crane.”

“I don’t know anything about life,” Levine said while introducing a poem. “It’s hard telling [reporters] that you’re making this stuff up. It’s called imagination.”

View more photos of Writers’ Here and Now here.

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