the Chancellors Desk
the Poetry and Poets of the University
Poet Laureate of the United States, Billy Collinshe is also
our CUNY colleague, a Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman
Collegeinvites us to take a poem/ and hold it up to
the light like a color slide. Or, if you like, walk
inside the poems room/ and feel the walls for a light switch.
Or imagine trying to water-ski across the surface of a poem/
waving at the authors name on the shore.
The message of Collins poem, aptly titled Introduction
to Poetry, is clear: poetry has a place in our daily life,
and we should avail ourselves of its nourishment. According to Collins
educational website Poetry 180a major initiative
of his laureate year (www.loc.gov/poetry/180)poetry has the
power to restore us or even transform us, to inspire and make
us think about what it means to be a member of the human race.
Now more than ever, the City of New York and the entire nation can
benefit from that message. This academic year we will be celebrating
poetry around the City University and throughout the City with a
major program called CUNY is Reading: The Poets of CUNY.
The program will be inaugurated with a lecture by Billy Collins
and a VIP reception to follow at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts
Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium on October 15. Professor Collinswhom
I congratulate once again on being appointed last spring to serve
a second term as U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetryread
an elegy for the victims of September 11 at a historic special session
of Congress at Federal Hall on September 6. Titled The Names,
the moving poem can be found in full on the CUNY web site.
The program will highlight the wealth of intellectual and artistic
talent at CUNY, and in particular its richness in great poetsfrom
legendary past figures like the late Allen Ginsberg and Queens College
Professor Emerita Marie Ponsot (winner of the National Book Critics
Award), to former faculty like John Hollander, John Ashbery and
Anne Lauterbach, to current bards like Baruch Colleges Grace
Schulman, the Graduate Centers Edouard Glissant, City Techs
Ellen Goldsmith, CCNYs National Book Award winner Marilyn
Hacker, and many others.
|Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in green rows in a field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.
the last stanza of "The Names," read by Billy
Collins before Congress in New York City on September 6.
That depth of poetic excellence extends as well to our students,
the poets of the future. If, as Walt Whitman once observed, The
United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem,
CUNY, with its remarkably diverse and talented faculty and student
body, is a microcosm of that national poem, and the source of some
of its most stirring refrains.
Billy Collins inaugural lecture in The Poets of CUNY
program promises to be a memorable evening of stimulating thought,
word and image. I invite anyone with poetic inclinations, inspirations,
or publications to join us this October for our first gathering
in this important series.
(For more details about this event and those to follow, visit the
CUNY home page, www.cuny.edu).