On Tuesday, April 19 the Honors Program and the Cultural Competency Professional Development Committee co-sponsored an amazing poetry event. Internationally-renowned Brazilian poet, Salgado Maranão, and Alexis Levitin, the translator of two of Salgado’s books into English, spent the afternoon and evening on Lane’s campus. Honors faculty member, Sarah Lushia, knew Alexis. She initiated the event and coordinated Alexis’s and Salgado’s visit to our campus.
Prior to the event, we gave copies of their collections, Blood of the Sun and Tiger Fur, to the honors students. Salgado and Alexis spent an hour in the afternoon reading and sharing stories with the students.
Salgado read “Mater,” a poem he wrote for his mother. He, with Alexis translating, explained how strong and determined his mother was in the face of great difficulties. He described her love of language and poetry, attending mass in Latin the one time a year a priest came to their area even though she did not understand Latin. He noted that if she had been in the upper class, a plaza or boulevard would have been named for her.
Honors Dean, Susan Carkin, noted the shared elements between his poem and “The Arrival of My Mother New Mexico Territory, 1906,” a poem by Keith Wilson. She sent me the link and also mentioned this poem to Alexis and Salgado. I hadn’t known of Wilson’s poem, and learning of it was one of many memorable poetry moments I experienced that day.
Salgado is also a lyricist and has worked with some of Brazil’s jazz and pop artists. Poet Frank Rossini (and also husband of the event organizer, Lynn Nakamura) suggested that Salgado and Alexis speak with music students. After the session with the honors students, they spent part of the afternoon with several music majors.
Salgado, Alexis, several honors students, a few faculty members, and the honors dean had dinner together in the Renaissance Room on Lane’s campus. Great food . . . great conversations up and down the table . . . and book signings . . . a perfect transition from the afternoon gatherings to the evening event open to the public.
On our walk over to the Center for Meeting and Learning, Alexis and I discussed Cid Corman and his connection to Japanese poetry.
Alexis mentioned that Salgado had written a poem about a snake whose movements were so smooth and so reassuring that it lured a frog into its embrace. Salgado has an interest in Japanese poetry and performs the poem with Tai Chi movements.
The evening event was spectacular! Lynn Nakamura organized everything beautifully. Brazilian music, including one of Salgado’s songs that he sang along to, played as people arrived. Linda Reling had a book table set up at the back of the room where I caught President Mary Spilde buying copies of the books.
Anyone who has ever heard Mary give a talk knows there will be poetry interspersed among her comments!
Chief Diversity Officer Greg Evans gave a wonderful introduction to begin the evening.
For two hours, Alexis and Salgado read, commented, shared more stories, and answered questions.
Creating opportunities like this for the students and the community is something Lane Community College does well. It is also a perfect way for the Honors Program to do something that is central to honors education: provide exceptional educational opportunities to the honors students and contribute to the larger campus community. We have many more events planned for next year!