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Slam, Song, Spoken Word

A night at BU Central with the Favorite Poem Project

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When the Favorite Poem Project came to BU Central in November, students sang, teachers read, and poets created verse out of rock songs and history books.

“I call this ‘The Struggle Revived — And Punctuated,’ said Hakim Walker (CAS’09), introducing a passage from a book of African-American history that he read in the style of spoken-word poetry.

The Favorite Poem Project was founded by College of Arts and Sciences Professor Robert Pinsky in 1997, during the first of an unprecedented three terms as U.S. poet laureate. The idea was to encourage Americans to celebrate and explore their love of poetry by reading poems out loud. 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.

BU Today, which features favorite poem readings on its Web site each Friday, and Speak for Yourself, the University’s spoken-word poetry group, teamed up to sponsor the Favorite Poem Project event in BU Central on Thursday, November 16. Members of Speak for Yourself competed in a poetry slam, local poet Adam Stone performed original material, and students, staff, and administrators took the stage to share their favorite poems with the crowd.

The featured work included a range of genres and styles. Jim Berkman, the headmaster of BU Academy, read “Frost at Midnight” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. “I’ve been coming back to this poem for 30 years, and I’m about to start the fourth decade,” he said. A. C. Abbott (COM’07) followed with “Anything,” a love poem by spoken-word artist Andrea Gibson.

“I just love poetry,” said Francis Piña (ENG’09), who performed a spoken-word version of “In the End” by rap-metal group Linkin Park. “So this is gonna be fun.”