Poetry Reading

“Thank you so much…for everything,” Dan Adamsky ’06 gratefully murmured to poet Richard Wilbur, a two time Pulitzer Prize winner. Last Friday night, under the Sandra Isham Vreeland Fund, Wilbur came to Andover to conduct a master class and to have a poetry reading open to the public. His poetry reading was an entertaining and beautiful success. Wilbur charmed the full house in Kemper Auditorium with his work. The audience was a wide and varied mix of students, faculty, grandparents, and local residents. Wilbur’s poetry, brought alive with his enchanting voice, proved to be a true inspiration to all. Wilbur’s program consisted of poems that were both serious and silly. He disclosed topics close to his heart, such as his family, his dreams, and his lovers. Wilbur humorously shared that he “particularity likes to pay attention to what people are putting up with, to sample the character of the audience.” Wilbur certainly fulfilled the audience’s appetite with his clever poem choices. Some especially memorable poems were the “The Reader,” the first poem in his book written for his wife, and “Blackberries for Emilia,” written for his granddaughter. Wilbur ended the night on a light note by reading several children’s poems. Lines such as “what is the opposite of quiet, the answer is silence,” and “the opposite of donut…a cookie with a hole around it,” left the audience laughing and craving more. “There’s something special when you hear poetry read out loud,” said Instructor in English Kevin O’ Connor, “all writers I know can remember the first poetry reading they went to; it has a very profound effect.” Wilbur’s captivating voice truly brought alive his words and had a very profound effect on the audience. For many students, this was their first poetry reading. Molly King ’06 did not really know what to expect, and was immensely impressed by “many good stand out lines that really stuck with me.” Liz Finnegan ’06 enthusiastically chimed in and said, “Wilbur had an enchanting voice, one of those that could really convey the meaning of the poem.” Dan Adamsky ’06, who is a budding free verse poet. He added, “It is always wonderful to hear poetry read aloud and hear how it supposed to sound…it was amazing.” Richard Wilbur epitomizes a great modern American poet and future legend. Not only is he the only living American poet to win the Pulitzer Prize twice, he was also named Poet Laureate of the U.S. by the Library of Congress two years in a row. Wilbur has won numerous awards, such as the Gold Medal for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Robert Frost Medal, and most recently, the 2006 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. His resume of accolades is extremely impressive. Each honor is another celebration of the magic, mystery and power of his writing. As Christian Wiman, Editor of Poetry magazine said, “If you had to put all your money on one living poet whose work will be read in a hundred years, Richard Wilbur would be a good bet.” One may wonder what goes on in Wilbur’s mind that allows him to write poetry that inspires all. Wilbur said that his inspirations for poems are simple. “Very often there comes up a fact that interests me, and that fact has an idea side to it, one that can get you started,” he said. It is hard to imagine that Wilbur’s great poetry stems from such simple beginnings, yet at the same time it shows the power of imagination. Wilbur pondered over how he would define his poetry, and said that it is about “different things, but I hope that taken all in all, it’s a whole mind or sensibility.” Judging from the long line for book signings, to the many glistening eyes seen among audience members, everybody felt and understood that whole mind and sensibility. A poetry reading is truly an amazing experience, for it shows the wonder of the usage of words. Wilbur, an American poetry legend, gave us the gift of feeling that poetry is truly a living and inspirational thing.