Student Reflections on Rick Barot’s December Reading at PLU

Posted by: Date: February 12, 2016

Last semester, two English Majors at PLU took a moment to reflect on their experiences attending Prof. Rick Barot’s public reading of poems from his most recent collection, Chord.  Here are their accounts:

Reflecting on Rick Barot’s Reading of Chord

By Hannah Soltis

On Thursday, December 3rd, Professor Rick Barot gave a reading of poems from his most recent book titled Chord. Although I had already read many of these poems for a class, it was a completely different experience to hear them read by the author himself. As a literature major, I often become caught up in analyzing the form and diction of the poems I read; while that is an important part of understanding poetry, the reading emphasized to me the emotional aspect that I often overlook. Professor Barot brought up many times the importance of using poetry and other art to discuss and explore social issues like war and racial conflicts, and how it is the responsibility of poets to talk about these difficult topics. I understood this to mean that, because poetry is one of the most accessible art forms, the people who create it should use their talent to put the pain of these struggles into words so that other people can recognize and understand the problems of others. I also felt that these ideas were even more powerful coming from Professor Barot than if they had come from a visiting poet because he is not a stranger—many people who were in the audience know him as a professor or colleague, which seemed to me to make what he said easier to internalize.

I was also interested in Professor Barot’s comments about the process of writing and publishing poems, especially because I am minoring in Publishing and Printing Arts. He mentioned that his book had been eight years in the making, all of which had been a rigorous process. I have known many people who look at poems and think that they could easily write just as well, but Professor Barot’s experience with the publishing process shows just how much work goes into every page of books before they are published. The purposefulness of every word resonated with me as I listened to Professor Barot read his poems with that extra dimension of emotion.

Seeing Eye to Eye: On Rick Barot’s Chord

By Breanna Wiersma

It isn’t often that a student gets an opportunity to see a professor in their element as a creator. With Rick Barot’s presentation on his collection of poems, Chord, a few dozen of us got to see just that. On the student side, the group was mostly composed of English majors (like myself); this put us in a position to see Prof. Barot not only as a professor, but as a poet, as well.

The presentation Prof. Barot gave caused me to reflect on the importance of seeing this creative side. This kind of opportunity humanizes the professors, filling out the spaces that classroom lectures leave behind. What I found more intriguing, more fundamental, is how sharing our stories illustrates that there’s a universality to the creative process. I could recognize that hint of tension in Prof. Barot’s presentation, the mix of excitement and nerves that accompanies the pride of a finished work. As someone who writes, there was a validation (and a sort of solidarity) in seeing that the ways that I felt about my writing were reciprocated in someone who wrote successfully and beautifully.

Chord itself certainly had an impact on me. I was most surprised by its ability to leave lasting questions. Prof. Barot has a particular strength in complicating everyday objects; I don’t think I’ll ever look at tarps or pink camouflage the same way. This inspired the creative inside me to consider longer-term impacts of the things that I make; while it’s easy to get caught up in form, this experience reminded me that creative works can have far greater effects.

I found that Prof. Barot’s sharing of Chord was immensely inspiring for me as a writer. It allowed me to see a different side to him, and left me wondering about both the universality of writing in general and about my writing in particular. Suffice it to say that for me, hearing Chord definitely had some serious resonance.