Internationally acclaimed poet and Renaissance literature scholar Linda Gregerson will give the Henry Russel Lecture on Thursday.
The Henry Russel Lectureship is considered U-M’s highest honor for senior members of active faculty. It is awarded annually to faculty members with exceptional achievements in research, scholarship or creative endeavors, as well as an outstanding record of teaching, mentoring and service.
Gregerson’s lecture, titled “Temporality in the Lyric Poem,” will start at 5 p.m. in the Rackham Amphitheatre. A reception will take place after her lecture.
Gregerson, Caroline Walker Bynum Distinguished University Professor of English and professor of English language and literature, LSA, is known for her innovative poetry, which draws on classical literature, science, history and the visual arts.
She teaches an array of courses in Renaissance literature, contemporary poetry and poetic form, and creative writing at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.
Gregerson directed U-M’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing from 1997 to 2000 and again from 2015 to 2016.
In her upcoming Henry Russel Lecture, Gregerson said she will discuss why poetry is particularly good at making people aware of time, especially of the “ephemeral present tense.”
To address this topic, she said she will highlight in her lecture passages from St. Augustine’s Confessions as well as John Milton’s sonnet “On His Blindness.”
“I am going to talk about how the poem is made and why it is that poetry is such a fit instrument for taking time apart and putting it back together before our eyes,” Gregerson said.
Gregerson later reflected that poetry allows her to pay more attention in her own life.
“I am keenly aware of the brevity of my own life and the life around me and also keenly aware how much of it is lost on me because I am not paying attention, I’m distracted, I’m sloppy in my thinking,” she said. “I want to do what I can to puncture that obliviousness. I want to have paid attention in the brief time I’m allotted, and for me writing poems and thinking about poems is a primary way of doing that.”
“To my mind,” she added, “this is simply one version of what we’re all trying to do here – scientists, engineers, historians, musicians – we’re trying to attend with more precision, more alertness, more compassion to the world around us. It’s why we gather together in universities and why it’s such an enormous privilege to do so, precious and worth protecting.”
Gregerson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oberlin College, a Master of Arts degree in English from Northwestern University, a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a Ph.D. from Stanford University.
She was assistant poetry editor at The Atlantic Monthly and taught at Boston University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining U-M’s faculty in 1987.
Gregerson, who regularly contributes to major publications such as The Best American Poetry and The New Yorker, was named an Academy of American Poets chancellor in 2016 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014.
She is the author of six books of poetry and two books of criticism, and co-edited a collection of scholarly essays.
Among her awards and recognitions, Gregerson has received four Pushcart Prizes, the Spenser Society’s Isabel MacCaffrey Award, an Academy Award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the Levinson Prize from Poetry Magazine and U-M’s Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award.
This year, four faculty members also received the Henry Russel Award. They are:
• Robin A. Beck, associate professor of anthropology and associate curator, Museum of Anthropological Archaeology, LSA.
• Ashley N. Gearhardt, assistant professor of psychology, LSA.
• Tung-Hui Hu, assistant professor of English language and literature, LSA.
• Sarah Veatch, assistant professor of biophysics and assistant professor of physics, LSA.