Poet Laureate enchants audiences, readers

Photo by Rachel Palinkas

Photo by Rachel Palinkas

Amber McKenna

Editor in chief

With a knowing smile and distinctive voice, California’s Poet Laureate Al Young inspired students, faculty and community members at Linfield this week.

Young’s visit comes as part of the Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows Program, which annually works with accomplished professionals and places them in small liberal arts colleges. Linfield has been part of the program for more than 20 years.

“Having Al Young here for a week is a big deal for us,” Fred Ross, senior adviser and assistant to the president, said.

Young is an award-winning writer who has lectured worldwide and taught at some of the world’s best colleges and universities, including Yale and Stanford Universities. He last visited Linfield 10 years ago.

The poet gave a lecture Oct. 14 in the Nicholson Library titled “Is Nerve Enough? Creativity, the Arts and Human Survival.” In addition, he visited classes in the English, music and sociology departments, as well as  various student groups.

Young was unexpectedly asked by seniors Mike Maguire and Justin O’Connell to guest star on their KSLC radio show called “Question the Official Story,” which regularly airs Wednesdays and Fridays at 5:30 p.m.

Maguire and O’Connell commendeered the radio station for an hour Tuesday to talk with their special guest.

O’Connell said it was a rare opportunity to have such a prominent speaker. The three discussed everything from their own poetry to politics to hip-hop music.

“We spoke about a wide-range of issues, and he was able to connect it all in various ways,” O’Connell said. “It was fascinating.”

Young said for him, getting to be on the show was a pleasant surprise.

“The opportunity to talk to people who are interested in knowing what the arts mean [is the best part],” he said.

Young said students seems more in-tune to current issues than those at Linfield 10  years ago.

He said he especially enjoyed watching the leaves turn on campus, as October is his favorite month.

“To me, October symbolizes the cycle of life,” he said.

On Oct. 19, Young went  to the Linfield-Good Samartian School of Nursing in Portland to visit a class about soothing chronic illness through music.

Ross said all those able at Linfield took full advantage of having a talented poet such as Young at their disposal.

“Having guests like him makes the campus more exciting,” Ross said.

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