Phi Beta Kappa to Feature Joyce Carol Oates, Henri Cole

The author will speak, and the poet will read, on May 24.

Photograph by Charles Gross

Joyce Carol Oates

Photograph by Susan Unterberg

Henri Cole

poet Henri Cole and prolific author Joyce Carol Oates will headline the Phi Beta Kappa ceremony at this year's Harvard Commencement.

Oates, who has taught creative writing at Princeton University since 1978, has published more than 50 novels as well as many books of short stories, nonfiction, and poetry, for a rough average of two books per year since her first volume appeared in 1963. She has also written plays, memoirs, and young-adult and children's fiction. Oates's 1969 novel them won the National Book Award. Her novel We Were the Mulvaneys (1996), on an American family, became a bestseller when Oprah's Book Club made it a selection five years later. Her books frequently deal with violence.

Cole, a Boston resident, will be the 2011 Phi Beta Kappa poet. He has published six volumes of  poetry, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is a past recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship. His 2003 book Middle Earth (read a review) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2004. From 1982 until 1988 he was executive director of the Academy of American Poets, and he has held teaching  and/or writer-in-residence positions at many institutions, including Harvard; he now teaches at the Ohio State University. His most recent collection is Blackbird and Wolf (2007).

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