Many will be surprised to hear that one of Tech’s hidden treasures is its poetry. The Institute boasts one of the most prestigious poetry programs in the Southeast, Poetry@Tech, which invites esteemed poets from all over the world to come read their work on campus.
In the past six years, the program has attracted over 90 local and international poets, including former U.S. Poet Laureates Rita Dove and Billy Collins. Poetry@Tech is led by renowned poet and Tech professor Thomas Lux. With a mission to spread the love of poetry, the program seeks to reach out to both Tech students and the general public.
This spring, Poetry@Tech invited Karen Head, Bruce McEver, Chelsea Ramburn and John Skoyer for its seventh annual McEver Poetry Reading.
Karen Head kicked off the event with an unusual presentation: digital poetry that one of her students had created. It included an animated picture with audio of a poet reading in the background.
Head then read some of her own poetry, which was light and straightforward, and inspired by her recent visit to Paris and her Southern upbringing.
Next, Bruce McEver read some of his calming and deep poems, which included “Tulips” and “Cathedral.”
Chelsea Ramburn, a young but respectable poet, read many poems that reflected certain themes in her life. “The theme of many of my poems is failure. That life’s difficult but you’ve got to keep trying,” Ramburn said.
The last poet, John Skoyer, introduced his poetry in a comedic manner. However, his poems slowly began to move towards greater depth and emotionality, with themes of love, death and self-discovery.
So why should Tech students immerse themselves in poetry at events like the McEver Poetry Reading?
The poets all had a common answer: to be able to communicate succinctly and effectively. “To do anything in life, you’ve got to express yourself and write clearly,” McEver said.
Lux pointed out that the art of communication is necessary for any profession, whether engineering, business or law.
McEver put it more bluntly: “Engineers aren’t worth a damn if they can’t write succinctly, put an idea in a memo and get it across, communicate either verbally or in written form.”
Many students shy away from poetry because they think it is too complex and mysterious, but both Lux and Skoyles insist that idea is a mistaken one.
Lux believes that poetry is a way to connect to the reader; if the reader can’t understand it, then it has no purpose. “I want my audiences to have fun, enjoy it, be moved by my poetry,” Lux said. “And I want it to be understandable by dogs and cats—so that anyone who has never read poetry can relate to it.”
For those interested in developing their own poetic skills, Poetry@Tech holds free workshops taught by Lux and other respected poets.
Anyone can enroll in these workshops, which help develop creative writing and give beginning poets the chance to read their poetry at local middle and high schools. This way, the new poets can help local English teachers convey the meaning of poetry and the method behind it.
Students who want to learn more about poetry can also take classes with Lux and find their own poetic voice.
Several have reported positive experiences in his classes.
“Thomas Lux is a really great professor and poet. He facilitates discussion really well and just makes the whole learning process more enjoyable,” said Lauren Robbins, a fourth-year MGT major.
Anyone who wants to give their left brain a break can check out the Poetry@Tech program at www.poetry.gatech.edu.