Staying Connected: Spring 2018
As a liberal arts dean looking back on my career, I am profoundly grateful to my faculty at the University of Michigan’s Slavic Department.
While studying at Michigan, I had the opportunity to work with terrific faculty who shared with me their love for Russian poetry, especially Drs. Asya Humesky, Michael Makin, and Omry Ronen. They inspired me, as did faculty who introduced me to semiotic models of analysis of Russian poetry, especially Dr. Herb Eagle (who became my dissertation advisor). It was also in Ann Arbor that I studied Polish and fell in love with Polish poetry, thanks to Dr. Bogdana Carpenter.
Over the course of the nearly 30 years since I defended my dissertation, I have had the honor of teaching at the University of Wisconsin (where I first climbed the tenure ladder) and then Temple University, the College of New Jersey, Ithaca College, and Hofstra University (where I have held leadership positions). At each of these institutions, I have shared my love for Russian poetry with students, faculty and staff. At Temple University I helped to organize a multilingual poetry festival, with students in each of the language programs reciting a poem in the language they study while the English translation was projected in the background. I have given periodic poetry readings of Russian poetry at The College of New Jersey and Ithaca College and am planning to do the same at Hofstra next semester. I have included Russian poems in the textbooks I’ve written or co-authored, especially Grammatika v kontekste (1998, now out of print) and Panorama (2017), because I am certain that our students will find these poems moving and motivating.
When I ask Americans about poetry, I typically find that they are uninterested in it and they cannot name many poets. When I ask Russians about poetry, I often find that they have favorite poets and that they often can recite favorite poems from memory. When I ask Americans about Russian literature, they typically can name (even if they haven’t read) great 19th century prose writers such as Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, but rarely do they name poets. I have taken up the challenge to help Americans discover Russian poetry and in doing so, I remember with profound gratitude the Ann Arbor Slavic faculty who helped me discover not only Pushkin and Akhmatova, but also Bal’mont, Gippius, Tsvetaeva, and Sedakova among my favorites from the Russian tradition, and Herbert, Rozewicz, and Tuwim among my favorites from the Polish tradition. My life has so much more beauty in it because of Russian and Polish poetry, and for that I will always be grateful to the University of Michigan Slavic Department.