The poems of the 2020 Core Poetry Reading


On the evening of April 15th, four and a half dozen classmates, alumni, lecturers, and friends, all members of the extended community we call the BU Core, came together on Zoom for our traditional spring poetry reading, an event Core has organized for nearly two decades. Despite a hitch at the start (we were Zoom bombed early on! how irritating, yet exciting, to be a target of pranks?) we listened, from our respective homes, to our fifteen readers share texts over the internet.

It was a moving event; it turns out that we don’t need fancy rooms, costumes, or production values, to achieve a sense of shared being-in-art; just human faces (yes, on screen), and human voices, and human-heartedness. In the background of some of our windows could be seen housecats, and children, and paintings on the wall, and friends in the room. How lovely to be able to gather in this way for an anthology evening.

For the benefit of those who were unable to join us, here is a list of the poems which were read, with at least a snippet from each:

  • “The Root of the Trouble” by Hugh MacDiarmid, read by Zachary Bos, and which is in its entirety: “There couldn’t be any war / If nobody went; / There couldn’t be any poor / Without their own consent.”
  • “Ave Maria” by Frank O’Hara, read by Sean Desilets: “Mothers of America / let your kids go to the movies!”
  • “The Eel” by Eugenio Montale, translated by William Arrowsmith, read by Stephen Esposito: “The eel, coldwater / siren, who leaves the Baltic behind her…”
  • “An Extraordinary Adventure Which Befell Vladimir Mayakovsky in a Summer Cottage” by Vladimir Mayakovsky, translated by Max Hayward and George Reavey, read by Kyna Hamill: “I yelled at the sun point-blank: / ‘Get down! / Stop crawling into that hellhole!’”
  • “The Jewel Stairs’ Grievance” by Li Po, in a version by Ezra Pound, read by Jonathan Han: “I let down the crystal curtain / And watch the moon through the clear autumn.”
  • Fifty-four lines from Paradise Lost, Book IX, by John Milton, read by Jonathan Han, and beginning: “O Sacred, Wise, and Wisdom-giving Plant, / Mother of Science, Now I feel thy Power…”
  • “Spring and All” by William Carlos Williams, read by Brian Jorgensen: “Now the grass, / tomorrow the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf…”
  • Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss, read by Sophie Klein: “Socks on chicks and chicks on fox.”
  • “When All Is Said and Done” by ABBA, read by Peter La Fontaine: “Here’s to us, one more toast, and then we’ll pay the bill…”
  • “A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London” by Dylan Thomas, read by Stephanie Nelson: “After the first death, there is no other.”
  • “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, read by Stephanie Nelson: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”
  • “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes, read byAnita Patterson: “I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.”
  • “The Root of Our Evil” by D. H. Lawrence, read by Christopher Ricks: “Ultimately, we are all busy buying and selling one another.”
  • “Death-bed of a Financier” by Stevie Smith, read by Christopher Ricks: “Deal not with me as I have dealt on earth.”
  • “Behavior of Money” by Bernard Spencer, read by Christopher Ricks: “Shall we recognize each other, crowding around the body?”
  • “Acquainted with the Night” by Robert Frost, read by Katie Robiadek: “I have passed by the watchman on his beat / And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.”
  • Twenty-nine lines from The Georgics of Virgil, translated by David Ferry, read by Sassan Tabatabai, and beginning: “It’s spring that adorns the woods and groves with leaves…”
  • A lyric by Rainer Maria Rilke (translator not specified), read by William Waters: “…as a tiny seed you sleep in what is small / and in the vast you vastly yield yourself…”
  • “Spring Pools” by Robert Frost, read by William Waters: “The trees that have it in their pent-up buds / To darken nature and be summer woods…”
  • “As Kingfishers Catch Fire” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, read by William Waters: “As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame”
  • “Song of a Second April” by Edna St. Vincent Millay, read by Zachary Bos: “…only you are gone, / You that alone I cared to keep.”

Some poems hewed closely to the proposed theme, “roots”, approaching along routes of ancestry, influence, word-play, and etymology, while other poems were chosen for quite other reasons. As demonstrated by this list of titles and lines, the evening was thoroughly particolored and polyphonic.

The Core staff will be reviewing the recording of the event, to see if it will be possible to share it on YouTube or Facebook. If you’d like to be notified of that outcome, email us and we’ll be sure to keep you posted. Below, feel free to share your thoughts about the poems and readings, if you were on the Zoom; or, if you were not there, let us know what poems you’d have liked to share if you’d been with us.

We thank Prof. Sophie Klein for her gracious performance as master-of-ceremonies, and Zachary Bos for managing the tech.Shown below: a screenshot of the reading, showing a few of those in attendance.


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