The Virginia Tech Department of English will be hosting an open poetry reading for hurricane relief on Wednesday, Sept. 7, in 370 Shanks from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The campus community and the general public are invited.

“VT Cares” will feature noted faculty, the inaugural group of the Master of Fine Arts programs graduate students, as well as undergraduates enrolled in creative writing. The relief idea was initiated by Katherine Soniat, associate professor of English, and 40-year resident of New Orleans. Soniat, who has five collections of poems, received her master’s degree from Tulane University, which is currently recovering from the disaster.

“I suppose having lived near a levee most of my life that the sense of impending flood was always unconsciously prominent,” said Soniat. “But who ever could have conceived of the exact horror of this unfolding tragedy in a city that is imprinted upon so many writers’ imaginations?”

As news of the devastation emerged, Soniat quickly rallied her colleagues into action. Internationally-acclaimed University Distinguished Professor Nikki Giovanni immediately embraced the idea. Giovanni is the author of 16 books of poetry and winner of three NAACP Image Awards.

Fred D'Aguiar, co-director of the Creative Writing Program at Virginia Tech, was also eager to participate in the reading. “It’s the biggest natural disaster on American soil in living memory and I know everyone at Virginia Tech cares about the victims,” said D’Aguiar, a noted prize-winning author who has published five poetry collections, four novels, a play, several essays, and a film script. “Our poetry event is a harmonious opportunity to contribute to a fund to help rebuild those wrecked lives.”

Soniat, Giovanni, and D’Aguiar will all be sharing their works. Those attending the reading will be encouraged to make a donation, either in creatively crafted words, or monetary, which will go to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

Judi Yon, Health and Safety Services Administrator for the local Montgomery-Floyd chapter of the American Red Cross, expressed appreciation for the event, saying "You can't underestimate the power of soothing words to promote healing."

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