Berkeley - Poetry is in the air this fall at the University
of California, Berkeley.
Poems," the popular series of free poetry readings,
kicks off its seventh year on Thursday, Sept. 5. Author
Maxine Hong Kingston, a lecturer in the English Department,
along with several other members of the UC Berkeley
community, will read their favorite poems in the Doe
Library's Morrison Reading Room.
Meanwhile, poet Carol Snow of San Francisco is taking up
residency as the English Department's Roberta Holloway Poet.
"UC Berkeley is at the heart of such a diverse cultural
world - in all the arts, and in poetry in particular," said
Snow, who will be teaching an undergraduate poetry class.
Undergraduates also have two new poetry courses to choose
from this fall - one on the works of Martin Heidegger and
Wallace Stevens, the other on how to read and recite poetry.
Readers at the series' Sept. 5 kickoff also will include
Nobel Laureate Charles Townes, a professor in the Graduate
School and in the Department of Physics; Orville Schell,
dean of the Graduate School of Journalism; and Jill Stoner,
an associate professor of architecture and editor of a recent
book, "Poetry for Architects."
At other Lunch Poems readings, scheduled through the fall
and spring, participants will include:
* Pushcart Prize and Guggenheim winner Brenda Hillman,
author of six books including "Loose Sugar" and "Cascadia."
Hillman teaches at St. Mary's College in Moraga. She will
read on Oct. 3.
* Chinese-Indonesian born poet Li-Young Lee, whose poetry
collections include "The City in Which I Love You" and "Book
of My Nights." The American Poetry Review called Lee "one
of the finest young poets alive." He will read on Nov. 7.
* Mary Ruefle, author of seven books of poetry, including
"Among the Musk Ox People", will read on Dec. 5.
* Adrienne Rich, known for her feminist poetry and criticism.
Her most recent works include "Fox" and "Arts of the Possible:
Essays and Conversations." She will read on Feb. 6.
* Luis Rodriguez, winner of a PEN Josephine Miles Literary
Award, who has published eight books of poetry and is known
for a memoir on gang life, "Always Running: La Vida Loca,
Gang Days in L.A." He reads on March 6.
* Cornelius Eady, winner of the Academy of American Poets'
Lamont Prize and author of seven books of poetry, including
"The Autobiography of a Jukebox" and "Brutal Imagination."
Eady will read April 3.
Lunch Poems is hosted by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert
Hass, who is a UC Berkeley professor of English, and by
program coordinator and poet Zack Rogow.
Carol Snow is on campus this fall as a visiting assistant
professor. The author of four volumes of poetry ("For" in
2000, "Bowl" in 1998, "News Of: Short Poems" in 1994 and
"Artist and Model" in 1990), her poems have appeared in
16 journals ranging from The American Poetry Review and
Antaeus to New America Writing. She won a Pushcart Prize
in 1994 and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.
The poetry lectureship she holds was established in 1980
with a bequest from the estate of Roberta Holloway (1902-1978),
who received her B.A. in English with honors from UC Berkeley
in 1923 and her PhD in English here in 1945.
Terms of the bequest called for English professor Josephine
Miles to chair the committee supervising the lectureship
as long as Miles was an active faculty member. Miles, an
award-winning poet and the first woman to be tenured in
the English Department, was also crippled by rheumatoid
arthritis. Due to a lack of elevators and wheelchair-accessible
ramps during many of her teaching days, male assistants
had to carry her across campus and up stairs. As her poetry
teaching career neared an end, she was so frail that students
carried her to class. Miles died in 1985.
Snow said that she can see UC Berkeley's fondness for poetry
in the range of approaches and even goals of writing poetry,
and how well so many are represented regionally in performance,
readings, publication and instruction.
"The guest position of Roberta Holloway Poet at UC Berkeley
- quite a lovely legacy - embodies this diversity," she
added. "It's very much an honor to join the list of distinguished
writers who've been Holloway Poets and a privilege to contribute
to the collage."
The Holloway program includes fall semester poetry readings
at 6 p.m. in Wheeler Hall's Maude Fife Room on Sept. 10,
Oct. 3, Oct. 24, Nov. 7 and Dec. 3.
Participating poets will include prominent practitioner
and scholar of African American experimental writing Nathaniel
Mackey of UC Santa Cruz; Joanne Kyger, a leader in poetry
innovation during the last 40 years; experimental poet Robert
Grenier; and psychologist and UC Berkeley lecturer Forrest
Snow said she's too new on campus to gauge whether poetry
is becoming more popular at UC Berkeley this fall. But she
said that it's more valued "when we are thoughtful, very
thankful or very troubled - just after the tragedies of
Sept. 11, many more poems appeared in the media."
Heidegger and Wallace Stevens
Rhetoric associate professor Frederick Dolan said there's
strong interest in his new undergraduate course, "Poetry,
Thought, Truth - Heidegger and Stevens," which focuses on
the works of Martin Heidegger and Wallace Stevens. The course
- a look at the German philosopher and at an American insurance
executive who became a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet - quickly
filled its 40 slots, with still more students on a waiting
While Heidegger's thinking is a kind of poetry, Steven's
poetry is a kind of thought, said Dolan. Both men believed
that poetry plays a critical role in expressing truths about
the world, he said, and neither was politically correct.
Students Out Loud
In another course, a Freshman Seminar in Comparative Literature,
students can learn how to read and recite poetry.
Steve Tollefson, who is teaching the course Tuesday afternoons,
said he thinks everyone should be able to recite one or
two favorite poems. His own personal list of more than a
hundred favorites even includes a few poems of none other
than Wallace Stevens.
"In addition to its purely personal benefits, knowing some
poetry by heart has practical applications," Tollefson said.
"In a tough job interview, you can impress the prospective
boss by reciting just the right line, say, from Dylan
Thomas: 'do not gentle into that good night / rage
rage against the dying of the light,'" he said. "Or
at a party some time, you'll be able to show off with
a bit of T.S. Eliot: 'in the room the women come and
go, talking of Michelangelo. '"