Alums wax poetic on campus

The Daily Pennsylvanian
February 26, 1998

College alumnus and Pennsylvania Gazette editor John Prendergast and College alumna and poet Carole Bernstein treated a small crowd to a display of Penn-produced literary and poetic talent last night.

The husband and wife team entertained a small group of about 10 students and Gazette staffers with selections of their writing as part of the Kelly Writers House Alumni Writers series.

Bernstein, who graduated in 1981, read poems from her recently published book Familiar, along with some newer works.

"Usually I gravitate toward the big issues," Bernstein explained. "A lot of poems in Familiar are about infertility. It was a horrible experience, but I got some good poems out of it."

Prendergast, who graduated in 1980, opened hte program with a reading of the prologue from Jump, a book written about "a certain time in life when people have very intense relationships." Prendergast added that he "tried to be a little outrageous" in the book.

He also read Weight, a recently written, "somewhat true" short story about old age.

Topics for Bernstein's poems ranged from her daughter's sonogram -- which she imagined looked like cave paintings -- to her regret for buying a purple raincoat.

First-year graduate student Justin Ginnetti noted that "[you] can't bring up Carole's poetry without talking about her humor."

Ezra Wolfe, a Gazette employee, said the readings were "fabulous," "powerful" and "stimulating."

Prendergast and Bernstein noted that they both received their first introduction to formal writing during their undergraduate years at Penn.

Before a graduate writing class at the University, Bernstein admitted that she thought that formal poetry "was just garbage."

Prendergast added that his experiences here were the "first time and first place where people took writing and literature very seriously."

Prendergast's short stories have been published in literary magazines, including The Painted Bride Quarterly, The Bridge, and The Ledge. He has been the editor for the Pennsylvania Gazette -- the University's alumni magazine -- for the past year and a half.

Bernstein's poems can be found in such magazines as Antioch Review, Chelsea, The Ledge and Poetry. Bernstein is also the author of And Stepped Away from the Circle. She is presently working as a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant.

The Alumni Writers series is a year-round program of about five events per semester at the Kelly Writers House.

"[The series] reminds me how rich a writing history Penn has," said Kerry Sherin, the resident coordinator of the Writers House. "There are a lot of great poets and fiction writers that have graduated from Penn."

She added that the series represents "[the alumni's] gift to Penn."