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  • Emma Radel

Author Clint Smith to visit campus

By: Emma Radel, Copy Editor

On Tuesday, Oct. 17, the Canisius University Contemporary Writers Series will welcome award-winning poet, essayist and author Clint Smith to campus. Initially founded more than 20 years ago using a John R. Oishei Foundation grant, the Contemporary Writers Series is funded today by the Hassett, Scoma and Lowery Endowments. Dr. Mick Cochrane, co-director alongside Professor Eric Gansworth of the creative writing program, heads the Contemporary Writers Series, which in the past has brought big-name writers to campus like Mary Karr and George Saunders.

Senior Maeve Devine, a dual English and creative writing major with a minor in philosophy, works in the Canisius Earning Excellence Program (CEEP) alongside Dr. Cochrane. As the program’s CEEP student, Devine expressed excitement for the event, explaining, “Twice a year, we bring a critically acclaimed author to the school … to talk about their work and read passages from their work.” The session is divided into two parts: a reading or speech by the author and a Q&A panel that accepts questions from audience members.

Smith has had profound success as an essayist, with publications in The New Yorker, The Atlantic and the New York Times. His debut poetry collection “Counting Descent” was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award, as well as the 2017 winner of the Literary Award for Best Poetry Book via the Black caucus of the American Library Association.

Published June 2021, Smith’s most recent book, “How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America,” quickly leapt to the status of #1 New York Times bestseller. The book later won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction and the Hillman Prize for Book Journalism, and the New York Times listed it in their article on the 10 best books of 2021.

Devine described how the contents of the journalistic nonfiction piece fit into Smith’s larger work. “His writing deals with the nation’s past with slavery and how the present is still affected by that, and how [the nation] tells the story of slavery in a truthful way or not so truthfully,” she said. “He goes to different plantations and cemeteries and sees how they tell the story of their history, how factual it is. Some places, they are not truthful with the history, and he grapples with that.”

Smith will be in Montante Cultural Center on Tuesday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m., and the event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be available after the talk, in addition to a table run by local bookstore Talking Leaves where attendees can purchase Smith’s books. Those interested in viewing the event via a livestream option should contact Dr. Cochrane for the link.

Devine concluded, “I think it’s important to bring people like Clint Smith to campus because it allows us to think about our own institution as an institution, as a city, and to always try to learn more about the past and how it affects the present as we go forward. I think that’s a good thing.”

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