Poetry Night: Food and Melancholy

ECLA Poetry Night 2009
Poetry Night

These were the verses that introduced the second poetry night. They are the opening lines of a poem written by Mark Strand, a contemporary American poet, which was published in his book Dark Harbor in 1993. The poetry night was held in the common room of Waldstrasse 15, on Friday, January 23. The topics of the night were food and melancholy. David Hayes, who read this poem, opened a discussion on the aforementioned topics, which was nourished throughout the evening by a wide range of poems.

Poems were read not only in English but also in other languages – Romanian, Russian, Hungarian, Croatian… Students also provided translations to the poems, some of which they had previously prepared, achieving great results. Others gave on-the-spot translations and interpretations of poems, which in no way meant that the translations lacked in either originality or value.

Because students read poems in their mother tongue, listeners had the enriching opportunity to feel the authentic cadence of the verse. Reading in this way also brought different cultures into the limelight, since each poem carries within its language a part of the cultural background in which it was written, no matter how small this part might be. Therefore, the discussion would often shift from the poem as a piece of literature to the conditions and context in which it was written. The poems that were read came from different literary periods. An excerpt from the Song of Songs, read by Geoff Lehman, T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, a poem by the Russian poet Osip Emilevich Mandelstam, a poem by Emily Dickinson—and many others, read by both students and faculty, brought different parts of the world together. Besides reflecting on the given topic for the night, several poems raised questions that were discussed in the previous term’s AY core course (Greek Thought and Literature on Education). Some of the poems were amusing and offered great imagery, connecting a longing for the beloved with the sweet taste of chocolate. Others, on the other hand, left a bitter aftertaste, reflecting on the alienation of the human being in modern society.

As the poetry night was approaching its end, a student decided to share one of her own poems. The poem was about a summer’s day, presenting all of its hot coziness through a soft, dreamy depiction. Being reminded of the summer days is an invaluable comfort on a cold January night. Thus, an evening dedicated mostly to melancholy successfully ended on a considerably lighter note.

by Elena Volkanovska (2009, Macedonia)

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