Classically Contemporary Poetry


Daniel O'Brien

McLean read several pieces in the Whipple Art Gallery.

Daniel O'Brien, A&E Editor

The William Whipple Art Gallery is packed to capacity.  Anticipation permeates the air as listeners eagerly wait for the poet to share her work.  When she begins, every ear delights in hearing the poetry leap from the page.
April 11 marked the date when English professor Susan McLean read her poetry in the William Whipple Art Gallery.  An experienced poet, McLean is capable of writing with a versatile range of topics and styles.
“I’ve been writing poetry since 1990,” McLean said.
The selection of poems she shared varied from ones with tongue-in-cheek humor to others with a more serious tone.  Her poem “Caesura,” for example, is about using the pause, caesura, in poetry.  Another example is the humorous “Mrs. Larkin Reflects,” which is a response to Phillip Larkin’s “This Be the Verse,” a poem in which he argues that parents screw up their children for life.
Throughout the reading, McLean was very informative.  She would explain what her poems were about, what forms they were in, what inspired to write a poem, and so on.
As a poet, McLean prefers to write poems that are set to a certain rhyme scheme and meter.  Several traditional styles and a few uncommon ones were among her reading selection.
McLean commented that it is often said, “the sonnet is the place where old professors go to die.”
Given the liveliness of her poetry, she brings a strong argument to the contrary.
Also, Mclean said, “I like to take a phrase that’s become a cliché and treat it literally.”
Such an approach resulted in a humorous poem called “Practical Proverbs” which listed cliché sayings that  were listed twisted to be more literal.
One of the lines, for example, was, “What can’t be cured, is herpes.”
Furthermore, McLean works as a translator and has lately been translating Latin poetry from the Renaissance figure, Sir Thomas More.
McLean read many more poems during her reading and they were often amusing, innovative and encouraged meditation.
Even though poems may seem unique, the idea  expressed in a poem will have been visited before.
About this idea, McLean said, “No one is an island.  Even islands are connected to the same world.”