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Cornell poet to kick off Botanic Gardens’ lecture series

By: Diana Buckley,  Cornell Chronicle
Mon, 08/21/2017

Cornell Botanic Gardens opens its annual Fall Lecture Series with award-winning poet Ishion Hutchinson. Hutchinson, the Meringoff Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow in the College of Arts and Sciences and assistant professor of English, will deliver the 2017 William and Jane Torrence Harder Lecture, the first in the botanic gardens’ six-lecture series. The Harder Lecture celebrates the link between the literary and natural worlds.

Hutchinson’s lecture, “The Axe of the Spoiler,” is a reflection on 19th-century English poet John Clare’s visionary poetics of nature and politics in a Caribbean light. The lecture takes place Wednesday, Aug. 30, at 5:30 p.m. in Call Auditorium, followed by a garden party at Cornell Botanic Gardens. The lecture and garden party are free and open to the public.

“We are fortunate to have a poet of Hutchinson’s caliber at Cornell, and it’s an honor to have him open this year’s lecture series,” said Christopher Dunn, the E.N. Wilds Executive Director of Cornell Botanic Gardens. “His work aligns beautifully with the mission and vision of Cornell Botanic Gardens. He is doing through poetry what we endeavor to accomplish through our work – inspire people to appreciate and conserve cultures and the natural world that sustains them.”

Hutchinson’s academic work focuses on American and British poetry, creative writing, the long poem and the epic. “House of Lords and Commons,” his second published collection of poems, received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. His other honors include the Whiting Writers’ Award and the Academy of American Poets’ Larry Levis Prize.

In his lecture, Hutchinson will reflect on the works of Clare, most famous for his poems about nature. Both Hutchinson and Clare find inspiration and passion for words through the rural landscapes of their childhoods and artfully pair human emotions with these geographical features.

“Ishion Hutchinson is the heir apparent of the great Caribbean poet Derek Walcott, to whom he recently paid a moving tribute in The New York Times. Like Walcott, Ishion is also a devoted acolyte of the whole lyric tradition in English, from John Clare to Seamus Heaney,” said Roger Gilbert, professor and the Picket Family Chair of the English department. “His poetry is dazzling in its deep musicality and its rich evocation of place and history. Our students are incredibly fortunate to have him as a guide to both the local and global trajectories of the literary imagination.”

Diana Buckley ’19 is marketing and communications intern for Cornell Botanic Gardens.

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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