BU’s poetry reading series kicks off in fall 2021 with former Oxford professor Christopher Ricks – The Daily Free Press
Professor Christopher Ricks began his lecture last Tuesday by reciting a poem by William Barnes, âThe Hill-Shade,â in memory of the recent loss of his friend, former student and colleague, Jennifer Formichelli. Formichelli, a Boston University graduate and BU Academy professor, was struck and killed by a bus earlier today in Mattapan.
Ricks, William M. and Sara B. Warren professor of humanities at the BU and co-founder of the Editorial Institute, presented his talk entitled “The best words in the best order” on October 26 as part of the BU Poetry. Reading series. He focused on the difference between prose and poetry in literary criticism.
Prior to BU he was a professor at many other institutions, such as the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. The lecture he presented on Tuesday was also his inaugural lecture at Oxford as a professor of poetry, Ricks said. He explored the perception that prose is inferior to poetry.
The poem was then followed by a recording of the American poet David Ferry reading poems translated by the French poets Pierre de Ronsard and Charles Baudelaire.
âLiterature should include it all,â Ricks said in an interview. âGreat prose writers like Jane Austen or Samuel Beckett or Mark Twain or Henry James are just as great writers as poets.
Meg Tyler, associate professor of humanities at the College of General Studies and director of the Poetry Reading Series at the BU, wanted this conference to help people “think more carefully about categories of writing and literary genres.”
“I just hope he challenges all of our assumptions,” she said ahead of Tuesday’s conference.
By analyzing poets such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and TS Eliot, Ricks illustrates how we should be more critical in the way we understand and analyze poetry. During the lecture, Ricks said in poetry, “the meaning alone does not determine the sentence.”
Zoe Rice, a sophomore at CGS, said the lecture gave her a new perspective on prose.
âHe argues that poetry is not just a superior version of prose,â Rice said. âThe prose itself can hold and be deep just by the words and the message it speaks. “
Additionally, in an age of disinformation and digital media where fake news engulfs people, Ricks pointed out the difference between manipulation and art.
âArt is imagining the real thing,â he said.
Tyler said Ricks’ lecture reminded him of how much the political divide has influenced literature and the humanities. She said it shows why the sentence structure and diction used are more important than ever.
âEvery sentence we say or write should have meaning and impact,â Tyler said. âI always say to my students, ‘I just want to get back to the sentence level. How to make the best possible sentence? “
Likewise, Rice said she felt she could implement what Ricks had talked about regarding the distinction between poetry and prose in her writing. She said that instead of trying to be poetic in her writing, she could embrace prose.
âIt doesn’t have to be rhythmic or anything, but it can be perfect in a smaller sense,â she said.
While Ricks distinguished between poetry and prose in this lecture, he wasn’t trying to show that one is better than the other. He does not have a precise position on this because it is not about something political like a “union negotiation” or “demarcation disputes”.
Ricks said in an interview that his lecture taught others to better understand the importance of prose.
âI would like people to appreciate, appreciate and appreciate works of art,â said Ricks. âThere are a lot of very important old things that are true and that may be forgotten. I want people to see how works of art, literary works for me, are wise, insightful and beautiful.