An accomplished poet as well as a clinical assistant professor of dentistry, Daniel Moran was once inadvertently billed as a writer of “dental poetry.” He told this story at a recent reading on the Medical Campus, assuring his colleagues and students that he would subject them to no such thing. In fact, the towering, congenial New York City native and former poet laureate of New York’s Suffolk County is at work on a seventh book of poems about love, life’s ironies, and the embrace of the natural world. On Friday, May 20, Moran will deliver the keynote address at the 2011 convocation ceremony of the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, at Walter Brown Arena at 3 p.m.
“The writing of poetry made the finite space of my inner life into a universe of endless proportion and possibility,” says Moran, whose poetry has been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize. He describes his poetry as a way to “invite people in,” ease a long-simmering sense of alienation, and communicate with a world that is by turns soothing and perplexing. He has often told interviewers, “A dentist is what I do, but a poet is what I am.” But since joining the BU faculty in 2008, he has found that the two callings are not so different. “Now I can say that, in many respects, what I do and what I am is a teacher,” says Moran, who for more than 20 years had a private practice on Shelter Island, a sleepy, picturesque village on the far reaches of Long Island’s north fork.
Although he started writing poetry in his first year at Nassau Community College, it wasn’t until after he had earned a DDS from Howard University and settled on Shelter Island that Moran was inspired to pursue his other craft more rigorously. He found support among the thriving community of artists and writers there, and it was there his patients came to know another side of him. Since he began writing poetry in earnest, Moran has done readings in New York City, Ireland, Italy, Austria, and Great Britain. He also has a following in Romania, where his poems have been read in translation on Romanian Public Radio. His poetry collections include Looking for the Uncertain Past (Poetry Salzburg, 2006), From HiLo to Willow Pond: New and Selected Poems (Street Press, 2002), and In Praise of August (Canio’s Editions, 1999).
While Moran knows of no other dentist poets, he believes that in terms of their sensibilities, the two disciplines actually have much in common. “It took me a long time to realize the connection between being a doctor and being a poet,” he says. “Both must be well-versed in empathy and compassion. A poet tries to understand human nature in a way that’s translated into words, and a doctor needs to do a similar thing, to understand how a person sees the world.”
Moran, who describes himself as “a man deeply in love with living,” divides his time between Boston’s South End and a home in rural New Hampshire.
“Dr. Moran is a superlative example of the successful and broad-minded dentist we strive to graduate from the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine,” says Jeffrey Hutter, dean of SDM. “I know he’ll be an inspiration and example to all of our students.”
Moran says the request to be keynote speaker caught him completely off guard. “I was totally surprised, in large part because I haven’t been here that long,” he says. “This is an honor beyond my expression.”
In the player above, listen to Daniel Moran read a poem about where he finds inspiration.
Susan Seligson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.