Ellen Robbins Poetry Forum

Sponsored by the Ulster Community College Foundation, The Poetry Forum is an annual event which brings well known and award winning poets to SUNY Ulster for intimate question and answer sessions, as well as a special evening reading of their poetry.  In 2007, the program was renamed the Ellen Robbins Poetry Forum to honor the memory of Ellen Robbins (1952-2006) who was on the faculty at SUNY Ulster from 1994 until 2006, and Chair of the English department, 2002-2006.
Forum guest 


Ellen Robbins Poetry Forum
Ulster community College Foundation, Inc.

Tuesday, April 5, 11:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., College Lounge, Vanderlyn Hall

Aja MonetAja Monet was the youngest individual to win the Nuyorican Poet’s Café Grand Slam title at the age of 19. She is recognized for combining her spellbinding voice and powerful imagery on stage, captivating audiences in the United States, France, the UK, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bermuda, and Cuba.Monet has performed at the Town Hall Theater, the Apollo Theater, the United Nations in New York City, and the NAACP’s Barack Obama Inaugural Event in Washington, D.C. In 2014, she was awarded the YWCA of the City of New York’s ONE TO WATCH AWARD—an award in honor of Monet’s work to honor women under the age of 30 who exemplify the mission of the organization, to empower women and eliminate racism.

Past Poets

2015 Poetry Forum Guest


Ellen Robbins Poetry Forum
Tina Chang, Brooklyn Poet Laureate

Thursday, April 23, 2015
11:45 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
College Lounge

Tina Chang is the first woman named as Brooklyn Poet Laureate. She is the author of the poetry collections Half-Lit Houses and Of Gods & Strangers; and co-editor of the acclaimed W.W. Norton anthology, Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond.

Her poems have been published in American Poe, McSweeney’s, The New York Times, and Ploughshares among others. She has received awards from the Academy of American Poets, and New York Foundation for the Arts, Poets & Writers. She teaches poetry at Sarah Lawrence College and is also a member of the international writing faculty at the City University of Hong Kong, the first low-residency MFA program to be established in Asia.

Sponsored in part by the Ulster Community College Foundation, Inc.

To read more about Tina Chang, click here.

For information, call (845) 687-5262.

Tina Chang
Tina Chang

Past Guests of the Poetry Forum

April 22, 2014:  Richard Blanco
April 11, 2013: Jorie Graham
April 28, 2011: Michael Dickman
April 22, 2010: Ted Kooser
April 30, 2009: Charles Simic
April 22, 2008: Naomi Shihab Nye
April  4, 2006: Yusef Komunyakaa
April 20, 2005: Jane Hirshfield
April 20, 2004: Michael McClure
April 23, 2003: Marge Piercy
April 25, 2002: Kenneth Koch
April 26, 2001: Robert Creeley
April 13, 2000: Robert Bly
April 14, 1999: Galway Kinnell
April 29, 1998: Donald Hall
April 17, 1997: Maxine Kumin
April 25, 1996: Carolyn Forché
April 28, 1994: Sharon Olds & Local Area Poets


2014 Ellen Robbins Poetry Forum

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 
1:15 p.m. in the College Lounge

photo of Richard Blanco 
Richard Blanco

Reading by Richard Blanco, the Fifth Inaugural Poet of the United States and acclaimed Cuban-American Poet.

Joe Donahue, host of WAMC's Book Show and Roundtable, will interview the author and moderate the audience discussion.

Born in Madrid, Blanco immigrated as an infant with his Cuban-exile family to the U.S. A practicing engineer, writer and poet since 1991, Blanco has lived and worked throughout Europe and South America. He has taught at Georgetown University, American University, Writer’s Center and Central Connecticut State University.

Blanco is the author of Books One Today (2013), Boston Strong (2013), and For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey (2013), Looking for the Gulf Motel (2012),Directions to the Beach of the Dead (2005), and City of a Hundred Fires (1998). He has received numerous honors for his writings and performances. His poems have appeared in countless literary journals and anthologies.

In 2013, Blanco was chosen to serve as the Fifth Inaugural Poet of the United States, following in the footsteps as such great writers as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. Blanco performed One Today, an original poem he wrote for the occasion, becoming the youngest, first Latino, immigrant and openly gay writer to hold the honor.

Following the inauguration, he continued connecting communities through occasional poetry. He has written and performed occasional poems for such organizations asFreedom to Marry, the Tech Awards and the Fragrance Awards.

In May of 2013, Blanco wrote Boston Strong, an occasional poem he performed at the TD Boston Garden Benefit Concert and at a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. Following his performances, he released a limited edition Boston Strong chapbook, with all proceeds going to those most affected by the Boston Marathon bombings.

2012: Jorie Graham

photo of Jorie Graham


Thursday, April 11, 2013 
10:10 a.m. College Lounge 
Vanderlyn Hall

Author of numerous collections of poetry including “Selected Poems: 1974-1994” which won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

With her many collections of poetry, it has been said that Jorie Graham has invented a new poetic language – at once lyrical and analytical, sensuous and philosophical.  Rejecting the conventional lyric, Graham creates poems that range across the page and across the human experiences, dramas of faith, perception and emotion. 

She is currently the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University.  She served as the American Chancellor of American Poets from 1997 to 2003.

The following is from Jorie Graham's website:

Jorie Graham

Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet

“One of the most intelligent poets in the language . . . [Graham] is like no one else, neither in her rhythms nor in her insistence on opening up, scrutinizing, and even reversing our experience of time and space.” —Times Literary Supplement

“Graham stands among a small group of poets (Dickinson, Hopkins, Moore), whose styles are so personal that the poems seem to have no author at all: they exist as self-made things.” —The Nation

"The world champion at shot-putting the great questions." —LA Review of Books

Jorie Graham is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including the Forward Prize-winning and T.S. Eliot Prize-nominated PLACE (Ecco, 2012), Sea Change (2008), Overlord(HarperCollins, 2005); Never (HarperCollins, 2002); Swarm (2000); The Errancy (1997); The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994, which won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; Materialism (1993); Region of Unlikeness (1991); The End of Beauty (1987);Erosion (1983); and Hybrids of Plants and of Ghosts (1980). She has also edited two anthologies, Earth Took of Earth: 100 Great Poems of the English Language (1996) and The Best American Poetry 1990.

With her many collections of poetry, it is said that Jorie Graham has invented a new poetic language—at once lyrical and analytical, sensuous and philosophical, shifting between acceleration and breaking. Rejecting the conventional lyric, Graham creates poems that range across the page and across human experiences, dramas of faith, perception, and emotion. Her poems press language to the breaking point, but out of the ruins emerges a startling new world. As she puts it: “the infinite variety of having once been, / of being, of coming to life, right there in the thin air.”

Graham's many honors include a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from The American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. She has taught at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and is currently the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University. She served as a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets from 1997 to 2003. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut.

About P L A C E (2012)

You need to watch a Graham poem closely — it's going to move quietly, subtly, so slowly it may even seem, at first, boring. But there's a lot going on there if you can bring down your heart rate to the poems' trance-like pace. For Graham, observing the movements of her mind and the action in the world are the same thing. In these mature poems, memories come alive with a vividness you could trip over: "I am the only one who ever lived who remembers / my mother's voice in the particular shadow / cast by the skyfilled Roman archway," she writes. Elsewhere, the present turns ethereal as, for instance, a dog hit by a car becomes "the loved still-young creature being carried now onto the family lawn." At the end of each of these winding, harrowing poems, you always end up having inched miles from where you started. Graham is in top form. —NPR

In P L A C E, Graham explores the ways in which our imagination, intuition, and experience—increasingly devalued by a culture that regards them as “mere” subjectivity—aid us in navigating a world moving blindly towards its own annihilation and a political reality where the human person and its dignity are increasingly disposable. Throughout, Graham seeks out sites of wakeful resistance and achieved presence. From the natural world to human sensation, the poems test the unstable congeries of the self, and the creative tensions that exist within and between our inner and outer landscapes—particularly as these are shaped by language.

Review of PLACE in the LA Review of Books

About SEA CHANGE (2008)

The New York Times said that "[Jorie] Graham's poetry is among the most sensuously embodied and imaginative writing we have," and this new collection is a reminder of how startling, original, and deeply relevant her poetry is. In Sea Change, Graham brings us to the once-unimaginable threshold at which civilization as we know it becomes unsustainable. How might the human spirit persist, caught between its abiding love of beauty, its acknowledgment of damage done, and the realization that the existence of a "future" itself may no longer be assured? There is no better writer to confront such crucial matters than "our most formidable nature poet" (Publishers Weekly). As formally gorgeous and inventive as anything Graham has written, Sea Change is an essential voice speaking out for our planet and the world we have known.

About  OVERLORD  (2005)

In her previous books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Dream of the Unified Field(1995), Graham explores the divide between perception and reality. In her stunning ninth collection, she is still an agile metaphysician, but her poetic self now kneels with her face in her hands, humbled by illness, war, and the ravaged earth. Forthright, compassionate, and ironic, Graham has crafted poems of lyrical steeliness and cauterizing beauty. The book's title refers to "Operation Overlord," the Allied offensive that culminated in the landing on Normandy's Omaha Beach, and that, for Graham, inspired exquisite and devastating tributes to soldiers. She then links the past to the grim post-9/11 present, where one god is pitted against another, a taxicab ride reveals a tangle of cultural conflicts and personal tragedies, and environmental decimation looms. Graham writes with breathtaking precision about the helplessness one feels in the face of suffering, but because "we cannot ask another to live / without hope," and because the poet's "great desire to praise" remains undaunted, Graham takes up the pen not only to eulogize but also to express "gratitude for the trees / and the birds they house." —Donna Seaman, Booklist

Media Gallery

Jorie Graham reading at the 2006 Dodge Poetry Festival

Conversation: Jorie Graham with Michael Silverblatt, May 20, 1999

Robert Hass with Jorie Graham


2011: Michael Dickman


Michael Dickman

His first collection, THE END OF THE WEST, was heralded as a brilliant debut where "his poetry breathes in the entire world, its delights, cruelty, boredom and yet breathes out a prayer". Michael Dickman was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. His poems have appeared in "The New Yorker" and "The American Poetry Review".
He has received Fellowships from Michener Center in Austin, Texas, the Vermont Studio Center and the Hodder Fellowship from Princeton.

Sponsored by the Student Government Organization and the Ulster Community College Foundation, Inc.



 2010: U.S. Poet Laureate & Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet Ted Kooser
Ted Kooser, two-time United States Poet Laureate (2004-2006) and Pulitzer Prize-winner (2005), will be visiting campus as Ulster County Community College's Ellen Robbins Poetry Forum poet.

Thursday, April 22
10:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.
Vanderlyn Hall, Student Lounge

Ted Kooser
Ted Kooser

Two-time United States Poet Laureate (2004-2006) and Pulitzer Prize-winner (2005), Ted Kooser is the highly esteemed poet from Nebraska.  A professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kooser is the author of eleven full-length collections of poetry. He has won numerous poetry prizes and two NEA fellowships in poetry. His work is known for its clarity, precision and accessibility.
The poet will hold a morning session at 10:30 am in the Student Lounge to meet with students and the public and talk about his work and answer questions. He will return at 7:00 pm for a reading from his works and a reception, again in the Student Lounge.

The evening reading is open to the public with a suggested donation of $8.00.
Sponsored by the Student Government Organization and the Ulster Community College Foundation, Inc. 

 2009: Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet Charles Simic
Charles Simic, hailed as one of America’s finest poets and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, is scheduled to be reading his poems at Ulster County Community College's Ellen Robbins Poetry Forum on April 30, 2009. 
Poet, essayist and translator, Charles Simic is the author of over 60 books, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and recently recognized as the 15th United States poet laureate. His poetry ranges from the surreal and metaphysical to the sardonic and outrageous to the direct expressions of emotion and memory. Simic will lead a morning discussion at 10:30 am in the Student Lounge in Vanderlyn Hall, and present an evening reading of his poems at 7:00 pm. This event is sponsored by the Student Government Organization and the Ulster Community College Foundation, Inc.

Charles Simic
Charles Simic

Simic, born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in 1938, has emerged as an outstandingly original American poet, drawing on his Eastern European background for many of his images and themes. Simic’s poetry ranges from the surreal and metaphysical to sardonic and outrageous to direct expressions of emotion and memory.

Simic has produced over 60 books of poetry, several of which have won major awards. The World Doesn’t End: Prose Poems (1990) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; Classic Ballroom Dances (1980) won the Harriet Monroe Award; Walking the Black Cat (1996) was a National Book Award finalist; Jackstraws (1999) was a New York Times Notable Book; and Selected Poems: 1963-2003 (2004) received the 2005 International Griffin Poetry Prize. He has been honored with a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (often called the “genius award”), a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Edgar Allan Poe Award, among numerous other honors. In 1995 Simic was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2000 became a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.





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