The Hope College Visiting Writers Series begins the spring semester with two authors of Middle Eastern heritage, Samuel Hazo and Nahid Rachlin, who will read in the Knickerbocker Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m.

Jazz music from the Hope College Jazz Ensemble will precede the reading beginning at 6:30 p.m.

The public is invited. Admission is free.

The author of more than 30 volumes of poetry, Hazo has been the president and director of the International Poetry Forum since its creation in 1966. In 1993, Hazo was the first person to be named State Poet of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a position he still holds.

The University of Arkansas Press has called his poetry "Clear...concerned, and uniquely refreshing." Aside from teaching at Duquesne University, where he is the McAnuly Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Hazo writes fiction, essays and plays, and translates Arabic works. His reading will reunite him with Hope College poet Susan Atefat Peckham, whom he has mentored. Hazo's most recent volume of poetry is titled "As They Sail."

Hazo will be joined in the reading by Iranian writer Nahid Rachlin. An author of fiction and memoir, Rachlin draws on both Iranian and American culture, creating stories that resonate across national boundaries. Rachlin's work has appeared in countless journals and magazines, including the "Prairie Schooner" and the "City Lights Journal." A recipient of the Doubleday Columbia Fellowship, the Wallace Stegner Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts grant, Rachlin has taught at Yale and currently teaches creative writing at Barnard College in New York City. Her latest novel is titled, "Married to a Stranger."

Both authors will participate in a student-led panel on their work, their culture, and challenges of writing as a Middle Eastern-American post-September 11, on Thursday, Feb. 21, at 3 p.m. in the conference room of the Maas Center. Following the reading, on Friday, Feb. 22, at 3 p.m. in the Granberg Room of the Van Wylen Library, Natalie Dykstra of the Hope English faculty will lead "Afterwords," a forum dedicated to discussing issues raised by the reading. The public is invited to both events.

The Knickerbocker Theatre is located on 8th Street in downtown Holland. The Maas Center is located on Columbia Avenue at 11th Street. The Van Wylen Library is located on College Avenue at Graves Place (11th Street).