Tonight was very unique. A guest lecturer and poet, Lia Purpura, read tonight at the annual Bothe lecture, a lecture held every year in honor of Judge Elsbeth Levy Bothe of the Maryland Circuit Court who donated generously to McDaniel in support of the arts and passed away this past March. Normally lectures like this will be accepted as extra credit by professors, but luckily for me I’m an English major, and a successful poet like Mrs. Purpura cannot come within my vicinity without each of my professors grabbing me by the back of my head and shoveling poems and all sorts of advice about the future down my throat.
What made it interesting was that I actually had two classes that made the lecture mandatory. One was my Intro to Lit Methods course which is the introduction to the major and conveniently has been covering poetry for the last week and a half, the other was a creative writing class centered entirely around poetry. The latter obviously focused more on Mrs. Purpura’s presence on campus and my professor actually got her to come speak to the class about her life as a writer.
I was shocked to find that I actually enjoyed hearing the perspective of a seasoned writer. Like many college students, I have never really appreciated a guest lecture. I mean I already sit for a minimum of two hours in class being lectured, I’m not going to be the first in line for an hour long lecture after classes are over. In any case, as far as mandatory guest lecturers go, Lia Purpura was very interesting. She was eccentric and enlightening; she even offered a wealth of useful advice during her session with my poetry class.
Her reading was unexpectedly ambiguous. Having never been to a reading, I didn’t know what to expect, but I thought it would be structured as a poem followed by an explanation. Instead, Lia read fluidly from poem to poem, pausing once or twice to offer minimal context for the poem. I was hoping she would give a better window into her writing process, but what she gave was simply a well rehearsed reading. No complaints though, it was still a very good experience and a good example of the type of first-hand learning that McDaniel makes possible.