Filling in the Blanks: Poetry at Yale

By Larissa Pham, CC '14

Under the bright heat of a clamp light in a tiny Chapel St. apartment, grad students and undergrads alike were held captive by words when, last weekend, a clutch of writers from Brooklyn came to New Haven to give a poetry reading. Hosted by the English department’s David Gorin (GS ’14) and also featuring student poet Max Ritvo (JE ’13), the intimate event was a perfect example of poetry’s boundary-crossing power. A mix of strangers and friends, lit superstars and casual scribblers, the reading offered a space for all to share, discuss, and enjoy the thing that brought everybody together: poetry.

Lending itself to being read proudly aloud as well as furtively tucked inside a secret journal, poetry in all forms is present on campus. The Yale Literary Magazine—affectionately referred to as “Lit Mag,” with issues twice a year—is one of the most obvious outlets for published poetry, but it’s not the only place. Readings like the one hosted by Gorin are another important part of the poetry scene at Yale, allowing readers and writers to move their work beyond the page and into the realm of discussion. And in just the past week there have been a slew of poetry-related events: an exhibit of small press books and zines (at the Beinecke); a panel on “The Object of Poetry” featuring Christian Bok and Susan Howe, among others (hosted by the Whitney Humanities Center); and a sound poem performance by Christian Bok at the YUAG. The collegiate favorite, slam poetry—loud, catchy, and attention-grabbing—has always had a lot of love on campus, with several groups performing and practicing on any given weekend, but there’s room for all kinds of wordplay at Yale, too. 

Created out of a personal and often emotive instinct, relatable yet certainly ripe for discussion as a craft, poetry is a perfect bridge to bring together all kinds of members of the Yale world—and beyond. Sharing, listening, reading and writing: all parts of the whole are supported by dedicated, passionate poets from all walks of life, striving to build a rich and creative community.

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