David P. Hilton, 67, poet and English professor

April 20, 2005|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

A memorial service for David P. Hilton, a poet and retired Anne Arundel Community College English professor, will be held at 11 a.m. May 15 at the pavilion in Wilmer Park in Chestertown.

Mr. Hilton, who was 67, died of complications from prostate cancer April 7 at his Chestertown home.

Born in Oakland, Calif., Mr. Hilton earned an associate of arts degree from Oakland Junior College and then served in the Army. After his 1964 discharge, he earned a bachelor of arts degree from San Jose State University and a master's degree from what was then California State College at Hayward, and studied as a doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin.

In 1971, he moved to Baltimore's Federal Hill and joined the faculty at AACC, where he taught writing, American literature and poetry. He also brought writers to the school for reading and discussions.

"Every student composition he graded - and he graded tens of thousands - he read with the same care and attention that he brought to his own writing," said Jean Turner Schreier, a dean at the school. "It's heroic work, and this man was absolutely fabulous at it."

Mr. Hilton, who later lived in Annapolis, was a founding member in 1992 of Artists in Residence, an organization of creative artists on the college's faculty and staff.

"He was so intellectually curious," said his wife of 30 years, the former Joanne Bucceroni, also a retired AACC English professor. "His writing in poetry was very experiential and he often wrote of the people of South Baltimore."

Mr. Hilton was well known in Baltimore poetry circles. He was co-editor of several Baltimore-area literary reviews, notably Exquisite Corpse with writer Andrei Codrescu.

He wrote 11 books of poetry, including Hula Dance (1976), No Relation to the Hotel (1989) and Smoke of My Own Breath (2001) - all published by small presses.

His poetry also appeared in The Yale Review, Poetry and other literary magazines. One of his poems - "In Praise of Bic Pens" - is included in the 2003 anthology Poetry 180, created by Billy Collins, then poet laureate of the United States, as a way of providing a poem a day to high school students.

Mr. Hilton was a longtime member of the Maryland Writers Council. In 1984, the Maryland State Arts Council named him poet of the year - an honor he accepted from Gov. Harry R. Hughes in Annapolis. The same group also gave him its Individual Artist Fellowship Grant in Creative Writing.

Mr. Hilton retired two years ago and moved to Chestertown, where he was active in the Unitarian Universalist Church and belonged to the Washington College Academy of Lifelong Learning and the Rock Hall Book Club. He also enjoyed chess and jazz and followed the Orioles.

In addition to his wife, survivors include a brother, Paul Hilton of Danville, Calif.; and two nephews and two nieces.

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