BU Today

Arts & Entertainment

Pleasure in the Sounds of Words

The Favorite Poem Project comes to BU Central on Nov. 16

Robert Pinsky, a CAS professor and former U.S. poet laureate, founded the Favorite Poem Project in 1997. Photo by Vernon Doucette

Peter Hawkins, a College of Arts and Sciences professor of religion and director of the Luce Program in Scripture and Literary Arts, says his favorite poem “makes him think about God in new ways.” Sara DeRitter (CAS’02, GRS’02), former program director of the Community Service Center, says that hers gave her confidence. And Jonathan Chin (CAS’08), a cofounder of Speak for Yourself: BU Slam Poetry, says that his dispels a lot of myths about slam poetry.

On Thursday, November 16, other students, faculty, and staff at Boston University will share their favorite poems at the Favorite Poem Project, a celebration of poetry to be held in BU Central. The event, sponsored by BU Today and Speak for Yourself, begins at 8 p.m. Local slam poet Adam Stone, the 1998 New England Forensic Interpreter of Poetry Champ, the 2000 Vermont Cover Slam Champion, and the 2000 National Dead Poets Slam winner, will be the featured performer.

The Favorite Poem Project was founded in 1997 by Robert Pinsky, a CAS professor, when he was U.S. poet laureate, to encourage Americans to explore their love of poetry by reading it aloud. “By reading poems we love aloud, we can learn how much pleasure there can be in the sounds of words,” says Pinsky. “It’s as though saying the words of a poem aloud makes one feel more able, more capable than in ordinary life. You enter a different state.”

Boston University’s faculty, staff, and students have been participating in BU Today’s version of the Favorite Poem Project since September, reading their favorite poems aloud in slide shows on the BU Today Web site.  Participants have included Hawkins, a winner of the University’s Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching, Sven Birkets, the editor of Agni, and Kate Snodgrass (GRS’90), director of the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. Each reader explains why the poem is his or her favorite before reciting it — Snodgrass chose D. H. Lawrence’s “Snake” simply “because it tells a story,” while Paul Howell (GRS’08),  a doctoral student in astronomy, selected Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” because “it’s about not letting the passion in you die as you grow older.”

The Favorite Poem reading is open to anyone at Boston University; readers can sign up at BU Central during the event, or e-mail today@bu.edu to sign up in advance. New poems will continue to appear on BU Today each Friday; to read a poem for the Web site, e-mail today@bu.edu.

Jessica Ullian can be reached at jullian@bu.edu.