UC Berkeley's annual Lunch Poems series kicks off Sept. 2, promises intellectual and artistic electricity

By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs

BERKELEY-- Science meets scansion and rhetoric meets rhyme on Thursday, Sept. 2, as some of the finest minds from diverse fields join former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass to inaugurate the fourth annual Lunch Poems series at the University of California, Berkeley.

The free kick-off reading, from 12:10 p.m. to 1 p.m., will be the first event to be held in the newly reopened Morrison Library, a popular and historic reading room that closed two years ago for seismic retrofitting.

The Lunch Poem series was launched in 1996 by Robert Hass, professor of English, to celebrate "the extraordinary richness of Berkeley's poetic tradition," he said, and "provide a forum for the campus where faculty, students, staff and the general public will be able to experience the intellectual and artistic electricity of UC Berkeley."

Each year, the series brings to campus some half dozen of the finest living poets to read from their works.

The annual kick-off reading, however, features invited members of the campus community who are asked to select and read a poem or poems of personal or professional significance and to talk about the work's meaning to them. The readers' expertise in their widely diverse disciplines makes for a rich and stimulating dialogue to inaugurate the year's series.

In that tradition, this year's kick-off promises "an all-star line-up of Berkeley faculty and staff," said Lunch Poems co-coordinator Zack Rogow. "It's an incredible array of some of the best known figures on campus, people you rarely, if ever, get to hear."

Among those scheduled to read and share their reflections on Sept. 2 are renowned mathematician Kenneth Ribet; rhetorician and theorist Judith Butler; biologist Tyrone Hayes; law professor Rachel Moran; anthropologist Laura Nader; and writer/translator Kyungnyun Kim Richards.

Other contributors will include Mark Danner, a faculty member at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism; Africanist Michael Watts, director of the campus's Institute of International Studies; and Imani Abalos, head of reference and information services at Doe Memorial Library. Abalos served as assistant director of last spring's campus production of "A Raisin in the Sun."

The regular Lunch Poems format begins Oct. 7 with Tony Hoagland, whose energetic and insightful work won the 1997 James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets.

Other readers in the series are Pura López Colomé, a leading Mexican poet and translator (Nov. 4); Linda Pastan, whose 10 books of poetry focus on the meaning to be found in everyday life (Dec. 2); Czeslaw Milosz, UC Berkeley professor emeritus and Nobel Prize winner (Feb. 3); Yusef Komunyakaa, whose 1993 book, "Neon Vernacular," won the Pulitzer Prize (March 2); and Carl Phillips, director of the Creative Writing Program at Washington University in St. Louis (April 6). The final reading (May 4) will feature UC Berkeley students.

All readings are free, open to the public, and take place at 12:10 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month in the Morrison Library, near the north entrance to Doe Library.

Support for the series is provided by the Library, the Morrison Library Fund, the College of Letters & Science, and the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities. Additional sponsors for individual events include the Holloway reading series of the Department of English, the African American Studies Department and the Bear Student Store. The series is underwritten in part by the Poets & Writers California Literary Presenters Program.

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