Annual spring literary festival kicks off with renowned poet James Richardson



Maria McGreary

The 19th annual Villanova Literary Festival began last Tuesday evening with a reading by James Richardson, celebrated poet and 2010 National Book Award finalist. Undergraduate student Maria Lovina introduced the poet, saying, “Like alchemy, Richardson’s work hovers somewhere between the real world and pure magic.” He did not disappoint. Despite technical difficulties with the microphone Richardson filled the St. David room with the voice of a parent bouncing a small child on their knee, reading slowly and deliberately.

His self-professed personal motto, “all work is the avoidance of harder work” is reason for the discovery of his talent. Richardson had an affinity for science in high school, but would read poetry when physics homework bored him. His poetry now reflects both of these passions, exploring the relationship between science and metaphor. In “Essay on Clouds,” published in The New Yorker, Richardson combines wonder of the nature of clouds with the activity of spotting shapes within them; “Large clouds can weigh / more than a 747, / yet not one has every crashed…”

In addition to this piece, Richardson read from his collection of Aphorisms, short poems, no more than two lines each, separated numerically. “Bless the things so small there is no need to doubt them,” he read. “Closing a door very gently, you pull with one hand, push with the other.”

These and other short poems were published in Vectors: Aphorisms & Ten-Second Essays in 2001.

During, Richardson’s latest collection of work, was awarded the Alice Fay Di Castagnola prize for best manuscript in progress by the Poetry Society of America’s. He is also a recipient of the Cecil Hemly and Emily Dickinson Awards and has earned fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

A New York native, Richardson has held positions at Harvard University and Columbia University, and currently teaches creative writing at Princeton University.

“Writing, it’s a really fun job,” Richardson told the audience. “Mostly involves looking out the window.”