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An evening for poetry

One of the advantages of working at a prestigious college is the cultural opportunities that aren't available elsewhere. Tonight, for instance, was the first poetry reading of the new academic year. We have an excellent creative writing program and, since a friend of mine who works there is a poet, I stay informed about who's coming to read.

Often - too often - poetry readings, especially by men in my experience, are dull affairs. Some poets are too earnest or try too hard to be serious and staid. Most of the audience are students who are required to be there for a class. (The actual poets in the MFA program seem genuinely excited.) The room is filled with a sense of obligation rather than joy.

Tonight, however, was Edward Hirsch, who was completely not that. He was delightful - funny and poignant and insightful without being dogmatic or preachy. I saw Billy Collins read a year or so ago and the spirit of tonight's reading was much the same. An intelligent, thoughtful poet who does not let ego or seriousness get in the way of the joy of poetry and its deepest kin, living.

I was sold when he did "Wild Gratitude," which I probably would have loved for its title alone. [If you follow the link, you can read the text and hear him read it.] He actually has a new collection of new and selected poems entitled The Living Fire (the title taken from the last line of "Wild Gratitude"), which I purchased after the reading and which he was kind enough to sign.

He closed his reading with this magnificent poem, "The Widening Sky," which pretty much tops anything else I can say about this beautiful evening. [Again, if you follow the link, you can read the text and hear him read it.]

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