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Thursday, March 11, 2004 06:25 pm

Literature lovers have a choice tonight

art899
Kevin Stein

Like a man to double business bound
I stand in pause where I shall first begin.

Claudius in Act III of Hamlet

Where to be or not to be? Tonight, March 11, two downtown libraries offer excellent programs for those who appreciate good writing. It's a choice between two Illinois notables: The state's new Poet Laureate and one of the Illinois Humanities Council's "Road Scholars."

Much has been written about Kevin Stein since he was appointed Poet Laureate last fall, but many Illinoisans still are unfamiliar with his work. Stein's appearance tonight at the Illinois State Library not only offers an introduction to his work, but also the opportunity to hear it in his own distinct voice. An English professor at Bradley University in Peoria, Stein's published collections include A Circus of Want, Bruised Paradise, and Chance Ransom.

Stein once quipped that the "mere mention of a poetry reading is enough to send some listeners scattering." If he's right, perhaps some will scatter to Lincoln Library, where Carol LaChapelle will offer up Earth Words, a look at the literature of nature.

Human beings have been writing about their relationship with nature for well over 2,000 years. Modern nature writing finds its roots in the pastoral poems of Theocritus and Virgil, the British Romanticism of William Wordsworth, and the literary nonfiction of American writers Henry David Thoreau and John Muir. Earth Words introduces audiences to the best in contemporary nature writing, including the works of Annie Dillard and Barry Lopez. LaChapelle shows how these writers combine good science with expert storytelling, and provokes listeners to think about their own place in nature.

LaChapelle holds a master's degree in English, and is an independent scholar specializing in environmental literature and nature writing. As a "Road Scholar," she's among a select group of the state's writers and scholars who belong to the humanities council's speakers bureau.

Carol LaChapelle's presentation begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 11, in the Carnegie Room at Lincoln Library, 326 S. Seventh St. Kevin Stein reads from his works at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 11, at the Illinois State Library, 300 S. Second St.

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