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April 16, 2024

Reading Series presents night of poetry reading

By SPENCER ABROHMS | March 3, 2016

Wyatt Prunty and John Irwin headlined an event on Feb. 5 as part of the Writing Seminars department’s Reading Series. The series allows Hopkins students and the general public to indulge in free readings of works of fiction and poetry by the authors themselves.

These readings provide a unique perspective on these works by providing insight into how the author intended the work to be interpreted and read.

On Thursday, Feb. 25, Gilman 50 was packed with students and community members excited to hear interpreted works.

Wyatt Prunty delivered the first reading with his poetry. He has had a dynamic career that includes the creation of nine collections of poetry since 1980, teaching at several universities and receiving multiple fellowships including the Guggenheim and Rockefeller fellowships.

Prunty is a formalist who plays with metrical verse and writes about a wide variety of topics. Much of his work focuses on “the self.” The first poem Prunty read was “Making Frankenstein,” which describes a young boy who desperately wishes to see The Curse of Frankenstein.

The boy’s fascination with the creation of life ultimately causes him to question how children are made which leads him to humorously stumbles upon descriptive pictures. This shocking revelation has a profound impact on the boy as he discovers what it means to be an adult and that his father is not as serious a man as he had once believed.

Prunty’s unique use of descriptive language is on show in this poem. He paints a clear picture of this confused boy and uses wordplay to describe him as a “little diplomat.”

Reading the poem in deep and slow voice, he was able to emphasize the boy’s discovery and fluctuating confusion. Additionally, one of the benefits of having the author read his own work is that he can make his intentions clear. When a joke about the nature of the explicit pictures went over the heads of many audience members, Prunty paused for effect, cluing them into the joke.

Prunty also read three of his other poems including “Reading the Map,” in which the process of reading a map is an analogy for navigating a marriage. The poem ultimately concludes that, although you can read the lines on a map, love is invisible.

Finally Prunty read “Ad-Lib,” a thoughtful poem based on the life of his brother-in-law. He recounted that for most of his life his brother-in-law was a “curmudgeon,” yet on his deathbed he became sweet and only wanted to spend time with his family.

John Irwin, the Johns Hopkins University’s Decker Professor in the Humanities, read next. Irwin is the author of several works of literary criticism and has published three works of poetry. Irwin read a narrative poem entitled “Pure Products of America, Inc.”

This narrative poem tells the story of born-again evangelist Ray Bob Elray, also known as Big Bubba, who goes on a Baptist radio show in Texas to preach revival. Irwin read the poem with a slow yet humorous tone, providing accents and different voices for the various characters.

Prunty and Irwin both delivered a rousing performance of their esteemed works. The talk contextualized their writing and provided new insight into their purposes.

The Writing Seminars department will host a number of other talks throughout the semester as a part of this new speaker series. The mission of the series has been stated as to exposoe and engage  the Hopkins community with respected authors and give them a larger presence on campus.


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