Sexton Returns to Alma Mater for Poetry Reading
Tom Sexton, professor emeritus of English at the University of Alaska and former poet laureate of Alaska, regaled NECC faculty, staff and students with readings from his book of poetry “Bridge Street at Dusk” on Tuesday in lecture hall A in the Spurk Building.
At times self-deprecating and admittedly a little nervous, the 72-year-old Lowell native, Sexton introduced and then read more than a dozen poems from his 13th book which was published just this year.
Sexton was introduced by Patrick Lochelt, adjunct English professor and faculty adviser to Parnassus, the NECC student literary publication, who held up the first published copy of Parnassus while explaining that Sexton was the first editor-in-chief of the magazine. Lochelt thanked Sexton for making a “triumphant return from Alaska to his alma mater”.
Shyly Sexton said it was “rather daunting” to be speaking before the audience. He then praised the college for launching his career.
“If I hadn’t come here as a student I wouldn’t have become a college professor,” he said.
Before attending college Sexton was the elevator operator at the Lowell Sun, a milkman, landscape gardener, and a soldier. He enrolled at NECC under the GI Bill.
“…the faculty was so encouraging and so dedicated…I thank this place for what I’ve become,” he said. “I want to thank everyone at Northern Essex. I will be eternally grateful.”
While reading from his works, Sexton explained that writing poetry is a process.
“It’s about memories. It’s about the things you cherish.”
His poetry readings primarily explored the Merrimack Valley, where he grew up, as well as people from his childhood. The themes and characters in his work were vast and diverse and included the local pool hall shark, Manny – the local lounge singer, the women and men of Lowell, VE Day, pollywogs, his neighbor who served in the Aleutian Islands, and the boiler room at the Bootts Mills.
This event, which was open to the public, was sponsored by Parnassus, the NECC Alumni Office, the NECC Office for Institutional Advancement, the NECC Library, and NECC Marketing Communications.