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DECEMBER 9

In the spring of ’92, just as the walls of ice were finally melting from around Syracuse University, I developed a schoolboy crush on Mary Karr. She was sassy, smart, and sexy; and I was, well, smitten. The 20 or so students slouching before her every Monday/Wednesday/Friday were mostly seniors who would abandon college in just a few months. Most didn’t give two shits about learning: This was an introductory poetry course—Whitman, Frost, Auden, Dickinson—and, more importantly, it was rumored to be a cakewalk. But Karr, who three years later would write the megaselling memoir The Liars’ Club, never phoned it in. Not once. At least, I don’t think she did: I only went to a handful of her classes that semester (the joys of vomiting on my sneakers each night diffused the desire to stare gaga at Karr). These days, I very much regret my shoddy attendance, but for reasons other than puppy love. Karr, who is equally captivating at both poetry and prose, has managed a powerful efficiency of words that rivals the strengths of SU colleague and close friend Tobias Wolff. So unless you have a keg party or panty raid to attend, let Mary Karr seduce you when she reads from her two award-winning poetry collections, Abacus and The Devil’s Tour, at the annual “Emily Dickinson Birthday Tribute.” At 8 p.m. at the Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol St. $10. For reservations call (202) 544-7077. (Sean Daly)