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Former U.S. poet laureate rocks crowd at Whitehead

Written by Von Kennedy


Former U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine and award winning poet Lynn Aarti Chandhok showcased their talents at the Whitehead Auditorium Wednesday as a part of Georgia’s Contemporary Writers series.

The auditorium was filled with over 200 spectators in anticipation to hear their favorite poems read.

Levine, 85, served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 2011-12. Chandhok won the Philip Levine Prize in 2006 for her book, “The View from Zero Bridge.”

Both poets brought out a bevy of emotions in the crowd as they read poetry from their books, but also from personal collections.

Dr. Marty Williams, creative writing professor, introduced Chandhok before she took the stage.

Because of the recent events in Boston, Chandhok read poems about events she witnessed in Kashmir, India and the mood in New York City after 9/11.

When asked about sharing the stage with the man that her award was named after, Chandhok noted that this was not the first time he was with her at a reading.

“He actually came to one of my readings in Fresno after I won the award,” Chandhok said. “I thought the hardest thing was reading in front of him. It was pretty nerve racking at first, but I saw him five or six years later after doing a lot of readings and it’s now really humbling. He is very down to earth.”

Chandhok also thanked Dr. Rick Campbell, an English professor at Florida A&M University, for choosing her to read with Levine.

Campbell followed Chandhok with the introduction for Levine.

From the moment Levine graced the stage, his humor and enthusiasm engaged the crowd.

“True equality between men and women is not found in wage or rank, but in stupidity,” Levine said after telling a story about a teacher he deemed stupid years ago.

Both poets enjoyed the reading at VSU, but had different reasons for coming back in the future.

For Chandok, this was her first visit to Valdosta and she loved every minute in the city.

“I would love to come back,” Chandok said. “This is a really quiet town and dinner was great with Philip [Levine]. “Also, the crowd here was really warm and receptive.”

Levine passed through Valdosta on his way to Washington, D.C in 1954, but has not been here since until the Wednesday’s reading.

“I remember coming through here back then,” Levine said.

When it came to reading again at VSU, Levine made one final joke.

“I’d love to come back. Just show me the money!”

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