Acclaimed poet reads tomorrow afternoon

by Alexis Starke | 1/20/99 6:00am

Poet and novelist Peter Liotta will give a reading on Thursday January 21 at 4 p.m. in the Wren Room of Sanborn House.

Liotta intimately links his writing with his often-overlapping life experiences in Eastern Europe and as flight as a pilot. "Liotta is a pilot of the air, but also of love and the heartbreak of history," poetry critic Walter McDonald said.

Liotta lived as a Fulbright Lecturer in Creative Writing and Artist-in-Residence in Yugoslavia from 1988 to 1989. His ties with Eastern Europe strengthened during his extensive travels throughout Russia, Europe and the Balkans, both as a poet and as a colonel in the U.S. Air Force.

Through his acquisition of Serbo-Croatian and Greek languages, Liotta forged bonds unusual among American poets. Liotta translates Serb and Croation poetry. His work is translated into Bosnian, Bulgarian, Arabic and Macedonian, among other languages of Europe.

His recent poems about Bosnia touch Donald Sheehan, Director of the Frost Place and lecturer at Dartmouth, as "at once supremely powerful and luminously gentle." Sheehan finds Liotta's compassionate and strong handling of this difficult subject matter unique.

Liotta's life in flight allows him another subject to encounter with humility and resilience. Liotta teaches national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. He served as military attache to the U.S. Embassy in Athens from 1992 to 1996. He has commanded KC-135, T-38, UV-18, and C-12 military aircraft.

In "Learning to Fly," he writes, "O my father, you've touched the faces of the Gods/ of War, felt the shadow at your shoulder,/ flown too close not to be scarred./ Like Daedalus, and his faltering son,/ there is this strand of light between us:/ twisted, frayed - closest where we break apart."

Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, Liotta's memoir "Learning to Fly: A Season with the Peregrine Falcon" establishes Liotta as a naturalist. The memoir deals with the peregrine reintroduction program and Liotta's season spent helping birds of prey learn to fly.

Liotta won the 1990 Colorado Seminars in Literature Award, grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Academy of American Poet's Prize, the Alan Collins Scholarship in Poetry from Bread Loaf, and a MacDowell Colony Fellowship. He has published seven books, along with criticism and translations, in Australia, Canada, Great Britain, the U.S., and Yugoslavia.

The Robert Frost Place of Franconia and Dartmouth's Creative Writing Program co-sponsored the reading. The Frost Place, has granted prizes to writers to work at the poet's farm in Franconia, for eight weeks during the summer months, since 1977. Liotta received the Robert Frost Scholarship from the Frost Place.