Campus & Community

May Day poetry at Lowell House

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Verse, merriment mark spring holiday

As part of the traditional daylong May Day celebration, a poetry reading by the Lowell House Poemical Society took place May 1 at Lowell House, with festivities also featuring an early morning waltz on the Weeks Bridge, a bacchanal, and a recital with the historic Lowell House bells.

The Lowell House Poemical Society dates back to the 1950s, when Cecil Day-Lewis, former poet laureate of the U.K., stayed in the House. In the 1960s, when poet Marianne Moore was affiliated with the House, the society was revived. There are photographs of Moore on the House wall and an autographed poem she wrote, “Occasionem Cognosce” (recognize opportunity), which is the Lowell House motto.

The society meets each Tuesday evening during the academic calendar to read and discuss poetry. Many undergraduate members of the group have gone on to gain distinction in the world of American letters, often via fellowships at Oxford. Some publish, some teach, while others simply become enamored for life with the world of poetry.

—Kevin McGrath

The Lowell House Poemical Society is co-chaired by Lowell House tutor Ari Hoffman and Kevin McGrath.

Kevin McGrath, an associate in the Department of South Asian Studies and Lowell House poet-in-residence, reads from his collection of poems, “Windward.”
Resident Scholar Sandy Alexander (left) talks to Marina Connelly from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences before the poetry reading. Alexander read a poem by John Updike, while Connelly read three of her own poems.
Sandy Alexander expressively reads from John Updike’s poem “A Pear Like a Potato.”
Marina Connelly reads “Tulips”; “Elegy,” composed for a friend; and a poem called “Spring, 2013.”
Van Tran, a former Lowell House tutor who now teaches at Columbia University, returned to Cambridge for the evening. Kitty Pechet (left), whose husband was the late Maurice Pechet, a longtime member of the Lowell House Senior Common Room, is an artist and regular attender at Lowell events.
Teaching fellow and Lowell House tutor Ari Hoffman (left) and Kevin McGrath confer before the reading. Hoffman read “Suzanne” by Leonard Cohen and the 126th Psalm in both Hebrew and English.
Dorothy Austin, co-master of Lowell House, read Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees”: “Poems are made by fools like me/But only God can make a tree.”