U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway told the audience during an April 22 poetry-reading event at the American University of Sharjah that “the act of making the poem, the act of creation is happiness, pure happiness.”
The Pulitzer Prize winner was accompanied by Christopher Merrill, director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.
Tretheway and Merrill read several of their poems to an audience of over 160 people, who created a standing-room-only atmosphere in the university’s Lecture Hall B.
Tretheway said that what draws her to poetry is what it has to say.
“I do want poems to speak to me. I want them to tell me something about the human experience,” she added.
When asked during a Q&A session about her use of repetition, Tretheway explained that when it is used in poetry, the lines are not necessarily conveying the same meaning every time.
“Drawing attention to that is drawing attention to the transformative nature of language,” she added.
Tretheway also said that apart from writing poetry, she enjoys reading other poets’ writing, stating that she cannot write before “engag[ing] intimately with the rhythms of another poet.”
The pure language of poetry, Tretheway said, allows people to hear one another in a highly ideological world.
Merrill added that poetry “shapes our imaginations,” and moves language in new directions.
Merrill, who writes about a variety of cultures, stated that he has read Arabic poetry in translation, adding that Dreams of Departure by Naguib Mahfouz is a book he always carries with him when he travels.
One of the poems Merrill recited, “Ghazal,” is based on the Arabian and Persian poetry tradition of that name.
The poem is dedicated to Merill’s friend, the Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali, who “challenged American poets to write real ghazals in English.”
On April 23, Trethewey was scheduled to conduct a poetry masterclass at the American University of Sharjah.
Farah Nada is a senior at American University of Sharjah majoring in Mass Communication, concentrating in Journalism.
For more information about American University of Sharjah, please visit www.aus.edu