IU Afro-American Studies Professor John McCluskey has been friends with acclaimed poet Mari Evans since 1977. McCluskey, himself a novelist, remembers with fondness the days when he and Evans shared ideas at Yaddo, an artist's community in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. He said he appreciated her talent right away.\n"She's a fine poet -- an excellent, important poet," he said of Evans, who will present a lecture today at 7:30 p.m. in Room A201 of the Theatre/Neal-Marshall Education Center. "One of her strengths is how concise her words can be and how sharp her wit can be."\nThe 78-year-old Evans has consistently published poetry and other creative works since the 1960s. Her books of poetry include "Where Is All the Music?" (1968), "I Am a Black Woman" (1970), "Nightstar: 1973-1978" (1981) and "A Dark and Splendid Mass" (1992), plus several children's collections. She also authored the plays "River of My Song" and "Eyes," a work based on Zora Neale Hurston's poem, "Their Eyes Were Watching God."\nEvans has received fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell Colony and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the John Hay Whitney Fellowship. She recently was nominated for a 2002 Grammy Award for her liner notes to "The Long Road to Freedom: An Anthology of Black Music."\n"She's one of the early African-American poets who is still living," said Grace Jackson-Brown, director of the African-American Cultural Center Library, which is sponsoring Evans' lecture. "Her career spans four decades of writing, and she's considered a mentor to a lot of younger African American poets."\nJackson-Brown said Evans's work still has a great deal to say to younger generations.\n"Her poetry resonates a great deal with the black experience," she said. "It tells of day-to-day life, what it's like to live as an African American. It tells of the joys as well as the struggles with racism."\nEvans, who was born in Toledo, Ohio, and attended the University of Toledo, also has strong ties to Indiana and IU. She was a writer-in-residence at IU for six years in the 1960s and 1970s. In addition to her work at IU, she also has taught at Spelman College and Cornell University, among other institutions.\nWilliam Wiggins, acting chairman of the IU Afro-American Studies Department, said Evans' visit "is quite a coup for the university." \n"This is one of those rare opportunities when you have a chance to be exposed to the author, not just to read her work," he said. "It's a way to engage in a dialogue with her."\nIn addition to her lecture tonight, Evans will be honored at a reception at the Faculty Club in the Union from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. The event will also include student poetry readings.
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