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News from the Hill February 25, 2010 | back to index

Andover Newton Prof. Mark Burrows to give 2010 Foote Lectures on poetry “in a prosaic age”


Does poetry really matter? Can it change our lives? Can God be seen as a kind of poetry?

Mark Burrows, Andover Newton professor of the history of Christianity, will discuss these and other questions in the 2010 Foote Lectures in Ithaca, NY, April 9-11. The program of two lectures and a workshop will take place at the First Congregational Church (United Church of Christ), 309 Highland Road, Ithaca, NY.

Professor Burrows’ topic is “A Momentary Stay Against Confusion:  The Call of Poetry in a Prosaic Age.” The series will explore, says Burrows, “What difference, if any, does poetry make in our hard-edged, prose-laden, ‘get-it-done’ world?”

All the programs are open to the public free of charge. Registration for the lectures and workshop is required by Monday, April 5, by calling the Church Office at 607-257-6033 or by email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Schedule of events

  • Friday, April 9, 7:00 pm: “Can Poetry Save Us?  The Energy of the Poem in a Culture of Saturation” (lecture)
  • Saturday, April 10, 10:00 am: “Are Poets the Only Reliable Witnesses?  The Case of Rainer Maria Rilke on the ‘Dark’ and ‘Unfinished’ God” (lecture) 
  • Saturday, April 10, 2:00 - 5:00 pm: “Reading for Life: A workshop for those who wonder about poetry and God” (workshop)
  • Sunday, April 11, 10:00 am: Worship Service and sermon, “The Witness of Things Seen,” followed by public forum.

“The Energy of the Poem”

Professor Burrows’ program will begin on at 7:00 pm on Friday with his lecture “Can Poetry Save Us?  The Energy of the Poem in a Culture of Saturation.”

“This opening lecture,” Burrows says, “explores the nature of art – and, particularly, the verbal art of poetry – as a form of subversion, a beckoning toward what one Australian writer recently described as ‘the only whole thinking.’”

The second lecture, “Are Poets the Only Reliable Witnesses?  The Case of Rainer Maria Rilke on the ‘Dark’ and ‘Unfinished’ God,”  scheduled for 10:00 am on Saturday,  “explores the kind of ‘witness’ that poets offer, which one American writer described as ‘evidence,’ ‘instance,’ and ‘illustration,’ which lead us toward ‘a new engagement with life’ (Wallace Stevens).“

A workshop on reading

Burrows will offer a Saturday workshop from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm on “Reading for Life:  A workshop for those who wonder about poetry and God.”

Burrows explains: “An Australian poet, Les Murray, once suggested that God is ‘the poetry caught in any religion.’  What would it mean to imagine God in this way?  This workshop will focus on a selection of modern poets who have wondered about this – Rilke and Murray, Mary Oliver and Franz Wright, among others.”

The workshop is limited to 25 participants.

Sunday worship service and forum

Professor Burrows will conduct the Sunday Worship Service at the church starting at 10:00 am on April 11. The text will be John 20. 19, 24 – 29; Psalm 150 and the sermon title “The Witness of Things Seen.” All are welcome to attend.  An open forum will follow the service.

Can poetry save us?

“Poetry beckons us to attentiveness, confronts us with a wider and deeper world than the one we naturally inhabit,” Burrows concludes.  “It opens us to new ways of seeing the ‘unseen familiar.’  And, in such peculiar ways, it may just have the capacity to save us.”