By Judy Rakowsky
Anticipating those who might view research and poetry as disparate, English Professor Robert Pinsky—shown above with poet and lecturer Maggie Dietz—points out that the root for the word “research” is the same as the root for “circus.” In that sense, he says, poets and students of poetry have much in common with researchers in hard and social sciences: “They are all circling around looking for something central.”
- Poetry for PosterityAs U.S. Poet Laureate in 2000, Pinsky, who teaches in the Arts & Sciences Creative Writing program, undertook a historic project to record people from all walks of life reading their favorite poems. “Poetry is a physical art,” he says. “It’s meant to be said aloud.” The Favorite Poem Project’s enormous popularity has led to the creation of a video series and a website that fosters Favorite Poem readings everywhere.
- Unlocking OvidThough verses penned long ago in Latin might seem distant, once unlocked by scholars they can offer meaning and inspiration to understand our own times. In her new reading of three central episodes from the Roman poet Ovid’s epic masterpiece Metamorphoses, Classics Professor Patricia Johnson shows how great artists and their works suffer when political winds shift and expression is restricted. “In some respects, Ovid was living in a time similar to our own,” says Johnson. “Late Augustan Rome followed a period of intense cultural development and great dialogue, as in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.”
- Folio ForensicsPoetry is the literature of highest aspiration—that much is clear from the very words. “Poetic is good and prosaic is bad,” says Christopher Ricks, the William M. and Sara B. Warren Professor of Humanities and co-director of the Editorial Institute at Boston University, adding that he regrets the slight habitually made to great prose. So it matters when a great poet—or prose writer—changes, excises, or adds a word.
- Evolving ScholarsSonnets, or “little songs,” from the Italian sonneto, have only 14 lines, but, as a group of young Boston Scholars discovered over the summer, they can be powerful. For starters, at their BU orientation program in June, poet Meg Tyler read to them Shakespeare’s “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” (Sonnet 18) and she saw their faces brighten. “They just loved it,” she says. “The sonnet is such an approachable form.”
- A Terrible Beauty “As ideas that once provided motivation for soldiers—honor, glory, and even liberty—lose their force, comradeship continues to be a very powerful motive for combat,” says James Winn, describing a theme he explores in his compelling 2008 study, The Poetry of War (Cambridge University Press). Poems that conjure the strong bonds between soldiers are among the most affecting types of war poetry, he says.