Lunch Poems Series Begins
With Verses on Hope

by Fernando Quintero

Kicking off the second year of Lunch Poems, a noontime poetry reading series, Chancellor Berdahl welcomed the "rejuvenation of our everyday life with a bit of poetry" before reading an upbeat arrangement by John Ashbury about hope and quiet determination.

Under the direction of former Poet Laureate and Berkeley English professor Robert Hass, the Sept. 4 event was held before a crowded audience inside the ornate Morrison Room of Doe Library.

The Lunch Poem series was begun last fall by Hass.

Ronald Gronsky, professor of materials science and mineral engineering, followed Berdahl with readings of poems by Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson before dashing off to a 12:30 class.

His passionate prose, read in alternating hushed and boisterous tones, referred to the symbiotic relationship between art and science.

Ivan Arguelles, a staff librarian at Moffitt Library who has published a number of poems in small journals as well as larger anthologies, read several self-penned works including one poem that was written, appropriately, during his lunch breaks.

Astronomy professor Alexei Filippenko read two poems including one by Walt Whitman that, although beautiful, he said he "strongly disagreed with."

The poem, called "When I Heard the Learned Astronomer," is about an astronomer so caught up in his work he loses sight of the wondrous beauty of the stars.

"I disagree that knowing something about nature detracts from the sense of awe and wonder of it all," he said.

"It's true I don't see stars up in the sky, but rather giant spheres of hot gas...but for me, that knowledge enhances the beauty of nature, and adds to my enjoyment of it."

Pedro Noguera, associate professor in the Graduate School of Education, read in Caribbean vernacular a poem about labor written by Jacob Ross, former minister of culture in Grenada.

"Words can be like butterflies and bullets," Noguera said before his recital.

"Not bullets that pierce bodies, but bullets that pierce the mind."

Women's basketball coach Marianne Stanley included an anonymously written poem that celebrated the triumphs and tribulations of female athletes.

She was followed by former Clinton economic adviser and professor of economics Laura D'Andrea Tyson, who discovered there were "no poems about money or the GDP rate," she said.

"I conclude that my profession is an entirely soulless profession."

In the wake of Princess Diana's death, coupled with the recent deaths of two family friends, Tyson chose to read several passages that dealt with the subject of untimely endings.

A cappella singing by Berkeley graduate students Myriam Casimir and Desirée Pointer capped the event.

The regular Lunch Poems format begins Sept. 11, when Pulitzer Prize-winner Jorie Graham comes to Berkeley to read from her collection. She won the Pulitzer last year for her book of selected poems, "The Dream of a Unified Field."

The Oct. 30 event and subsequent readings will take place from 12:10 to 12:50 p.m. in the second-floor Subject Catalog Hall outside the main reference room of Doe Library, because of seismic construction that forces the temporary closure of the Morrison Room.

Support for the series is provided by the Library, the Morrison Fund and the College of Letters and Science. These events are also partially supported by Poets & Writers, Inc. through a grant from the Lannan Foundation.

The appearance of Tess Gallagher in October also is sponsored by the English Department, the Townsend Center for the Humanities and the Bear Student Stores operated by the Associated Students of the University of California.

  • September 11: Jorie Graham, who teaches at the Iowa Writer's Workshop. Her most recent book is "The Errancy."

  • October 30: Essayist and screen writer Tess Gallagher, author of "Portable Kisses" and "At the Owl Woman Saloon."

  • December 4: Floridian Dionisio Martinez, whose book "History as a Second Language" won the Ohio State University Press/The Journal Award in Poetry in 1992.

  • February 5: Brigit Pegeen Kelly, who teaches at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her book "Song" won the Lamont Poetry Prize.

  • March 5: Elizabeth Alexander, a Chicago based poet, is the author of "Body of Life" (1996) and "The Venus Hottentot" (1990).

  • April 2: Hong Kong born and Portland raised Marilyn Chin wrote "The Phoenix Gone, The Terrace Empty" (1994), which won the Josephine Miles Award.

  • May 7: A final reading by students who have won the Academy of American Poets, Cook, Rosenberg and Yang prizes; as well as representatives of creative writing classes.


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