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Arts & Entertainment

The Favorite Poem Project: October 2006

“By reading poems we love aloud, we can learn how much pleasure there can be in the sounds of words,” says Robert Pinsky, a CAS professor and former U.S. poet laureate. “It’s as though saying the words of a poem aloud make one feel more able, more capable than in ordinary life. You enter a different state.”

Pinsky founded the Favorite Poem Project in 1997 during the first of an unprecedented three terms as poet laureate to encourage Americans to celebrate and explore their love of poetry. Since then, the project — now directed by BU poet Maggie Dietz (GRS’97) — has produced three anthologies and more than 1,000 readings around the country.

Every week, BU Today will feature a member of the BU community reading his or her favorite poem. Any student or faculty or staff member can participate.

If you’d like to read your favorite poem for BU Today, e-mail us at today@bu.edu.


Click image to watch Robinson read.


Christopher Robinson, sign-language interpreter with BU’s Office of Disability Services
“Thanatopsis” by William Cullen Bryant

“I was introduced to `Thanatopsis’ by the great American playwright, August Wilson,* whom I met several times and who inspired my work in the performing arts. Wilson incorporated excerpts of the poem into his play, Gem of the Ocean. He told me it presented a non-western view on death—that death was not something to run away from, that our ancestors live on in everything around us.”

*August Wilson died on October 2, 2005.  Earlier this year, Robinson was an ASL interpreter for the Huntington Theater’s production of Wilson’s final play, Radio Golf.

Jonathan Chin (CAS’08), cofounder of Speak for Yourself: BU Slam Poetry
“Summer of the Pterodactyl,” by Elliot Harmon

“This does a lot for slam poetry — it bumps a lot of myths, like slam poetry’s supposed to be very loud and rambunctious, but it’s not. It’s also a great poem.”


Sara DeRitter (CAS’02, GRS’02), former program director of the Community Service Center
“Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou

“When I was in the eighth grade, my aunt Sue gave me a book of Maya Angelou’s poems. This one in particular just jumped out at me because of the tone of the poem and because the confidence that she had was something that I was striving for, and looking for, at that time.”

Kate Snodgrass (GRS’90), director of BU’s Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
“Snake” by D. H. Lawrence

“This has been my favorite poem for many, many years — I think because it tells a story.”