September 08, 2006
Rita Dove, wonderful; Audience, a mess
Rita Dove, the former Poet Laureate of the United States, gave the second annual Anisfield-Wolf Lecture at Severance Hall today a mid-day. Ms. Dove read selections from her own works with commentary about her life and our times. It was a compelling presentation.
Apparently not compelling enough, however, for the man in the audience who was audibly snoring during part of the lecture. (Severance Hall has excellent acoustics.) I was embarrassed for him and for the audience. There is no way that Rita Dove could have missed it; and since I was sitting quite close to the stage, I could see her body language tense up when she heard it. She clearly lost her concentration for a moment.
There were also a myriad cell phones that rang during the lecture. Now, I understand that everyone occasionally forgets to turn off and gets a nasty ringing surprise in a quiet public place; however, there is simply no excuse for the person sitting behind me to have taken the call from her seat in the middle of the presentation. I turned around and glared at her. If she is reading this, yes, I mean you.
It is also unfortunate that two-thirds of the audience (i.e., most of the SAGES students in attendance) got up and left immediately at the end of the formal presentation and did not stay for the Q&A. It was in her answers to the questions that Rita Dove was most revealing about her working methods, inspirations, and her background as a poet.