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Poetry explored daily during January

The IAP series, Pleasures of Poetry, now in its 8th consecutive season, offers a daily one-hour session of reading and discussing poems that are selected and presented by members of the MIT literature faculty, staff and students. The sessions, which are open to the public, are held in Room 14E-304 weekdays from 1 to 2 p.m. through January.

This year's selection--available in a packet from the literature department--offers a range of poems, from ancient to contemporary, and a range of presenters including the MIT rabbi and Episcopal chaplain.

Professor David Thorburn, head of the literature section and director of the MIT Communications Forum, is the series' organizer.

"The pleasures of poetry are diverse, powerful and subtle. Perhaps this explains the success of our annual adventure in poetry during IAP, for diversity, intellectual power and subtlety are also quintessential MIT virtues," said Thorburn. "This year's roster is especially rich, I think, a testament to the range of interest among our moderators and also, of course, to the amazing reach of poetry as an art. The series is inspiring to me for many reasons, not least because it reminds us of the intimate, enduring friendship of poetry, science and technology."

The series began last week (Jan. 3) with Professor Stephen Tapscott, on John Clare; Professor Howard Eiland, on Tennyson; and Professor James Buzard on T.S. Eliot. Rabbi Ben Lanckton moderated a discussion of selected psalms.

In each session, lively discussion followed a brief presentation of biographical information and a reading of the poems. Participants explored use of rhyme, meter, setting and tone in each poem; the relevance of historical and cultural influences; and the ever-engaging question, what is a poem anyway?

Upcoming sessions include presentations by professors of literature David Evett on works by Yeats (Jan. 12); David Thorburn on Michael Ryan (Jan. 24); Wyn Kelley on Puritan poems and Noel Jackson on Keats (Jan. 28). Presentations by other enthusiasts include Anne Hudson, administrative assistant, on works by Bob Dylan (Jan. 18); Chaplain Amy McCreath on selections from the Book of John (Jan. 20); Julian Wheatley, senior lecturer in foreign languages and literature, on poems from the Chinese and Burmese (Jan. 25); and Stephen Pepper, administrative assistant in academic services, on Barry Spacks (Jan. 26).

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 12, 2005 (download PDF).

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