Poetry at Tech gives students a chance at artistic expression

Photo by Jon Drews

Looking at the completely full audience at last Thursday’s Poetry @ Tech reading truly showcased how far the program has come since its inception in 2002. The School of Literature, Communication, and Culture houses Poetry @ Tech and serves as “one of the premier showcases of poetry in the Southeast.” Through generous donations and pure passion, Poetry @ Tech is able to provide multiple recitations each semester from some of the country’s most distinguished poets. Led by Thomas Lux, a Tech professor, nationally-acclaimed poet and the Margaret T. and Henry C. Bourne, Jr. Chair in Poetry, with Ginger Murchison and Travis Wayne Denton, who are current holders of the H. Bruce McEver Visiting Chair in Writing, the Poetry @ Tech program has grown tremendously from its auspicious beginnings over a decade ago. Now, the initiative has larger goals to send poets into schools, provide workshops for an HIV positive group and generally provide more poetry enlightenment and opportunities to the greater Atlanta community.

The Poetry @ Tech program has grown tremendously from its auspicious beginnings over a decade ago.

The first poet to speak at the event at Kress Auditorium was Laura Newbern, a Georgia College & State University professor who has received numerous recognitions for her quietly powerful and lucid collections.

Starting out, Newbern stated in her soft and gentle voice, “I’d also like to thank the weather for being so complimentary for what I chose to read.” And the poems that followed certainly paralleled the dark and dreary conditions outside, to a point. Starting with a somber and beautiful poem by Frank Stanford titled “You,” she then delved into her own works, each of which contained an edgy light-heartedness. Pulling inspiration from her love of soap operas, her home in Milledgeville and her nostalgic childhood, her poems seemed to sound like works of prose, with a graceful story interwoven into each one. Newbern finished by stating, “If my book tells any story, it’s a story about love and longing…the longing of a quiet observer and the world.”

Next was Dan Veach, who recently published his first book of poems and ink paintings titled Elephant Water, who began his reading by translating others’ poems from various languages, including Arabic and Chinese. Veach lightened the mood and had the audience laughing with blithe, amusing and playfully intelligent poems such as “God Spelled Backwards” and “Wear and Tear—A Poet to his Underwear.” Other works of his, such as “The Truth About Spring” which personifies winter in Boston, included an array of breath-taking literary and rhetorical devices; as Thomas Lux succinctly described, “Dan Veach’s quiet yet passionately intense poems let us journey companionably with him.”

The last poet to present—and undoubtedly the biggest crowd-pleaser—was Thom Ward. With six published books, Lux described his poetry as “breathtaking in imagination and energy…about as alive as alive can get.” Ward began by remarking, “Laughter is encouraged and welcome,” and his humor did not disappoint.

Ward’s array of poems included “In Defense of the Landline” which was a playful spin on problematic cell phones to the tune of the “Five Little Pigs” nursery rhyme, as well as poems inspired by an assortment of comical topics: cockroaches, Humpty Dumpty, toilet seats and his love for the Boston Red Sox, to name a few.

The night was enjoyable for Tech students and notable attendees alike.

Ultimately, the night—complete with snacks, wine and $500 worth of free, autographed books by the poets – was enjoyable for Tech students and notable attendees alike.

For those interested, LCC courses, certain English classes and numerous free workshops specifically focused on poetry are continually offered, guaranteeing that students’ ardor for the arts is enriched and appreciated even here at Tech.