March 8, 2004

English Club Explores Poetry

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Students gathered in the lounge below Stella’s restaurant yesterday for coffee, appetizers and a discussion of selected poems by Wallace Stevens. The forum was led by Prof. Daniel R. Schwarz, English, and organized by the advisory committee of the Undergraduate English Club. About 40 students and eight committee members attended the event.

A selection of five poems by Wallace Stevens were distributed to the attendees, two of which were read aloud and interpreted by the audience.

Schwarz read the first poem, entitled “Anecdote of the Jar”, and provided a visual presentation as well — a glass jar and several photographs taken by Schwarz’s wife of a jar placed in the wilderness of Tennessee. “The Idea of Order at Key West” was also read aloud by a member of the audience.

After each reading, Schwarz initiated a casual discussion about the meaning of the poem. English club co-chairs Laurie Brown ’04 and Jennifer Roberts ’04, along with Schwarz, purposed a number of interpretations, which were then discussed by the other members of the audience.

“It was our first event of the term and we didn’t know what to expect, but we were really pleased with the turnout and what seemed an energetic and enthusiastic crowd,” Roberts said.

The Undergraduate English Club died out about three years ago when the senior members of the advisory committee graduated and underclassmen failed to continue its events, according to Schwarz. It was picked up again this year by Schwarz and Brown, who then placed it in the hands of the current student advisory committee.

The advisory committee includes nine undergraduate students — co-chairs Brown and Roberts, Erica Chung ’05, Amy Crawford ’05, Adrienne Juozokas ’05, Anne Sargent ’04, Jesse Knapp ’05, James May ’05 and Billy Tobenkin ’05.

According to Schwarz, the English department at Cornell has been trying to refocus its attention on undergraduate education. The Undergraduate English Club was restarted after three years of dormancy as part of that effort.

“The re-launching of the Undergraduate English Club is very important to the life of the department. The department is really trying to strengthen its commitment to undergraduate education, and [this club] was restarted as part of that commitment,” Schwarz said.

The poetry forum was the English club’s second event of the year. This event was smaller and more intimate than the first, according to Brown, which allowed interactive discussion among the audience.

“We’re very grateful to Stella’s for providing great food in a fun atmosphere, to Professor Schwarz for leading a stimulating discussion and to everyone who came for making the event a success,” Brown said.

Members of the audience were pleased with the evening as well. Sarai Mejia ’05 said, “I think tonight went really well. I enjoyed the enlightening discussion that the audience provided.”

The English club is aiming to have three events per term, according to Roberts. The advisory committee is seeking to attract people with a range of interests, inside and outside the English major. Other social activities proposed by the committee include an event at the Johnson Art Museum and a postmodern poetry forum.

Archived article by Missy Kurzweil