by Danielle Sarubbi
The Humanities lecture hall was packed on Sept. 24, with standing room only, as students and faculty gathered for the first Durst Distinguished Lecture of the year featuring Kevin Young. The poetry editor at the New Yorker (and poet himself) visited the school to discuss his 2017 book “Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News.”
Ironically enough, Young confessed he had no idea just how powerful his book “Bunk” would be. Then the 2016 Presidential elections happened and he knew the rest of the world needed to see his work.
The earliest period in history the book covers are the 1860s, a time of P.T. Barnum, who made his living based on hoaxes. But Young reassures us that hoaxes were happening long before then and long after then.
“When [Young] finished one of his last questions that were asked, about the idea of the hoax, which he writes about in his new book,” senior creative writing and literature double major, Trisha Murphy said, “he talks about how it’s not just what you make up, it’s the fact that you made it up in the first place. That you have a responsibility and accountability for what you say, what you preach and what you try to convince other people of and you have to take ownership for what that is and the consequences that come with it.”
Both Murphy and fellow creative writing senior, Finola McDonald, came to the event because it was highly encouraged by their professors, but left feeling inspired.
“I was really impressed with his range,” said McDonald, “exploring different things that you can do and I guess the impact that you can have, not just in the world of poetry but branching out of that. I didn’t know how much he explored different areas of literature and the work that he did in those.”
“For such a small school, that was a really incredible turnout,” Anthony Domestico, the Head of the Chair of the Durst Committee, said. “We very rarely have standing room only in one of the big rooms and people were standing up and down the aisles, so that was great."
Domestico’s role within the Durst Committee is, in part, deciding upon which writers to invite to campus. Young’s reputation was enough to draw him to Purchase.
“He’s such an interestingly varied and ambitious figure within the literary world,” Domestico said about Young. “He is one of the most celebrated poets of his generation.”
The highly successful lecture Young gave about “Bunk” will not be the last time he visits Purchase College.
Young will be back for another reading on Nov. 7, then the following day he will lead a private tour through the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Manhattan with some students.
He’ll come twice more in the spring. Young plans on working with students in the School of Music at Purchase, specifically in the jazz program, to put together a sort of musical event incorporating his poetry.
A campus-wide email will be sent out to notify students when Young will be back on campus.