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New Tongues, New Tales
Students and faculty gathered to celebrate National Poetry Month with a multilingual poetry reading that included poems read in everything from Middle English and Hindi to Russian and Korean.
The Rose O’ Neill Literary House briefly transformed into a global village one afternoon this spring as a packed house listened to poetry readings in 13 different languages. The event, called “Whan that Aprille Day,” marked National Poetry Month with a celebration of multilingual poetry and Geoffrey Chaucer—with a few extra poets like Sappho, Neruda, and Rilke thrown in for good measure.
“Appreciate the beauty of this language,” Courtney Rydel told the audience, “like Chaucer standing on the docks, straining to hear snatches of new tongues and new tales.” Rydel, assistant professor of English, and Olivia Serio ’17, president of the Poetry Club, emceed the event, which was co-sponsored by the Poetry Club, Sigma Delta Tau (the English Honor Society), the Global Education Office, and the Lit House.
Speakers read different versions of excerpts from Chaucer; for instance, Serio read his “General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales in contemporary English, Leslie Rothstein ’16 read it in Middle English, Mook Lim, assistant professor of economics, rendered it in Korean, and David Hull, assistant professor of Chinese language, in Mandarin.
Erin Smedley ’16 read Chaucer’s famous tale “The Wife of Bath” in Middle English, followed by Olabisi Alabi ’16 “reading in my Nigerian accent” British poet Patience Agabi’s more modern twist on the story, “Wife of Bafa.”
Rachel Brown ’16 read “Alturas de Macchu Picchu” by Pablo Neruda in Spanish; Anna Black ’16 read “The Prayer of Francois Villon” by Bulat Okudzhava in Russian; Kayla Kyle ’16 read “Gerfunden” by Johann Wolfgang von Geothe in German; Cody Bistline ’19 read “Le Vin des Amant” by Charles Baudelaire in French; and Rhea Arora ’18 read “Varsha Aayi” by Madan Gopal Sharma in Hindi. Casie Jahnigan ’17 and Valerie Wilson ’17 took sides reading Arcite and Palamoun’s fight from “The Knight’s Tale” in Middle English.
Philip Walsh, assistant professor of English and instructor of Latin and ancient Greek, read from Catullus and Sappho in Latin and Greek, respectively. And Bennett Lamond, professor of English emeritus, gave a raucous rendition of Chaucer’s “To Rosamonde” ensuring that listeners of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” will never hear the song quite the same way.