“It does the heart good to be among books and people who love them,” former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove said to a packed Morrison Library audience.
As part of the Lunch Poems series, Dove read from a diverse selection of her work Thursday afternoon — recent poems and ones from further back in her extensive catalog, which includes Thomas and Beulah, winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in poetry.
“It is so wonderful to see this room so full of people who love poetry,” Chancellor Carol Christ said during her opening remarks to a standing-room-only crowd of about 250 people. Christ, fittingly, began her academic career in the English Department, teaching poetry. “I have never been to an event here where there are people literally hanging from the balcony, so that says a lot about Rita Dove and says a lot about this community’s love for poetry.”
Dove was not only the first African American to be elected U.S. Poet Laureate — at 40 years old, she was the youngest, too. She now teaches at the University of Virginia.
The work Dove read Thursday included poems about family; an homage to the library near where she grew up, in Akron, Ohio; and the creatively alliterative Ode to My Right Knee (which opens, “Oh, obstreperous one, ornery outside of ordinary”).
Among those in attendance was Chelsea Muir, a public policy graduate student. She popped in for part of the reading after seeing a flyer.
“I liked the creativity and the playfulness,” she said, citing, in particular, a flowing prose poem Dove read. Muir said she was impressed by the reading and was inspired to read more of Dove’s work. She also enjoyed Morrison Library, which she was visiting for the first time.
Dove expressed a similar sentiment: “It just feels good in here,” she said.
ABOUT LUNCH POEMS
Lunch Poems is a noontime poetry reading on the first Thursday of the month. Admission to the Morrison Library event is free. Check out the spring semester schedule. Watch videos of past readings. Support for this series is provided by Dr. and Mrs. Tom Colby, the Library, The Morrison Library Fund, the Dean’s office of the College of Letters and Sciences, and the Townsend Center for the Humanities. These events are also partially supported by Poets & Writers Inc., through a grant it has received from The James Irvine Foundation.