March 4, 2024
Reading time: 2 minutes, 13 seconds

Poetry illuminates society in an unfamiliar light, stretching the boundaries of language and its function. Talented authors not only put their art from pen to paper but also share its allure in the spoken word through opportunities such as the University of West Georgia’s Blackwell Prize. 

Photo of Gregory Pardlo by Beowulf Sheehan
Author photo by Beowulf Sheehan

The Blackwell Prize is a series that celebrates high achievement in writing and observational painting, each occurring in the spring and fall, respectively. The Blackwell Prize in Writing awards stellar authors each year and invites them to campus for readings and community engagement. 

The winner of this year’s Blackwell Prize in Writing – a $10,000 award supported through the generosity of the Fred R. and Nell W. Blackwell Testamentary Trust of Newnan – is 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner Gregory Pardlo. He will read works spanning his career at 6 p.m. at UWG’s Campus Center Ballroom on Monday, March 11. Pardlo will also be reading at UWG Newnan for The Other Night School on Tuesday, March 26, 6:30 p.m., with a 6 p.m. reception preceding the talk.

“Over the years, UWG has hosted several American poets of the highest caliber, including Yusef Komunyakaa, Barbara Ras, Allison Joseph and B.H. Fairchild – all household names in the poetry world,” said Dr. Gregory Fraser, professor of English. “We are pleased to add Gregory Pardlo to this auspicious list because his powerful work extends a conversation that already exists on our campus.”

Pardlo is a captivating artist and individual with a distinct way of structuring language in unconventional fashions to convey complex motifs in his art – exhibited in works such as “Written By Himself” and “Double Dutch.” 

“Gregory Pardlo is the kind of poet with a far-reaching mind and a deep-diving heart,” said Fraser. “He's a poet of peace and a poet of discontent. He cries for permanence and aches for change – for social justice, dignity and respect across the board. His work can move from the airy realms of philosophy to the harrowing underworlds of urban plight.”

Poetry has long stood against relentless time, evolving and staking its place in society despite the changing ages.

“Poetry uses words to take us to places we never thought we could imagine or inhabit,” reflected Fraser. “Poetry shapes and orchestrates language to overcome inertia, to fight entropy, to fill silence, to call for change, to restore hope, to remind us that the future rests not just in our hands but also in our words.”

Fred and Nell Blackwell curated programs such as The Blackwell Prize to share the importance of enriching a literary culture, exemplifying generosity, and devotion towards expanding the arts in their community and beyond. 

Interested guests can learn more about the event through the UWG website. The event consists of a reading and book signing to follow the presentation. Free books will be given on a first-come, first-served basis.