Poetry: “It’s [never] just about a Duck on a Pond”

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Poetry: “It’s [never] just about a Duck on a Pond”

Kimberly Wilson, Opinion Editor

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In the past I was one of the many who found poetry to be entirely overdramatic. For me, poetry was simply not worth the effort it takes to truly understand its significance. An English class I took in my third semester at College of DuPage opened my eyes to the beauty of the art form. I’ve since come to truly value poetry’s ability to convey human life and emotion.

In my quest to continue to broaden my appreciation for poetry, I visited the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. Opened in 2011 and free to the public, the Poetry Foundation boasts a 30,000-volume library that consists solely of poems. It is also home to an exhibition gallery and a performance space used for various public events hosted by the Foundation.

One particular poet whose work I was excited to explore at the Poetry Foundation is Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). Commonly referred to as just Dante, the famous Italian is widely regarded as one of the greatest western poets who ever lived. His most well-known piece, the famed “Divine Comedy,” is a long, narrative poem considered to be a literary masterpiece.

Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” originally entitled “La Commedia,” will be studied in depth in an honors humanities course for the upcoming fall semester here at COD. The course, which will be taught by COD Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies Leslie Wolf, will focus on various themes presented in the “Divine Comedy,” including Dante’s ideas on society and theology.

Wolf said although Dante’s Catholicism must be taken seriously in studying the “Divine Comedy,” Dante’s personal religious convictions will not prevent students who are secular, atheist or of a different religion from benefiting from his class. Wolf will adapt the piece to a “modern readership,” and one of the main goals of the class will be to examine how the “Divine Comedy” can help us all live better lives.

“I want to focus on what he can teach us about the nature of living a life that is truly happy, flourishing, satisfying, rich; a life worth living, a life lived well,” Wolf said.

Wolf believes there is much knowledge about human psychology to be gained by anyone who decides to study the “Divine Comedy.”

“I want to analyse Dante’s conception of what it means to be human,” he said. “I want to analyse his conception of mental health. I want to analyse his conception of virtue, wisdom, rationality of emotion, and how all of this relates to relationships and community. So much of Dante’s poem, it’s really all about salvation. Dante wrote that poem because he wanted to save his reader.”

Along with building critical thinking skills and developing a greater appreciation for beauty, Wolf believes reading poetry can help increase thoughtfulness and enable us to recognize what is truly important in our lives.

[Poetry] is great for helping people to appreciate the richness of the human in all its beauty and all its ugliness, the good and the bad, and to get people to start paying attention to things that really matter, things of real substance, things of real value. I think the humanities are great for all of it, but I think poetry especially is such a great vehicle for that.”

The Poetry Foundation strives to present poetry to as wide an audience as possible. Home to multiple genres of poetry and the work of many of the most influential poets in history, the Poetry Foundation is the ideal space for anyone wishing to check out Dante’s work, learn more about poetry in general, or anyone who is already captivated by the artform.

When you’re finished immersing yourself in the wide array of poetry the foundation has to offer, you’ll even have the opportunity to make a wish, write it down and add it to the many wishes adorning the trees decorating the entrance of their building. It’s a cheerful way to end an inspiring visit on a bright, summer day.  

To find out more about Professor Wolf’s humanities course, you may contact him at wolfl214@cod.edu. For more information on the Poetry Foundation visit their website at www.poetryfoundation.org.


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