Over the past 30 years, the Bothe Poetry Memorial Lecture has become a cultural institution at McDaniel College, bringing more than a dozen Pulitzer winners and poets from every walk of life to Westminster to share their works, their methods and their views on life.
While in the past, poets have come from all over to be a part of this celebration of their craft, this year, to honor the 30th anniversary of the event, organizers chose to look within to select their poet, picking McDaniel professor, poet and longtime organizer of the event Kathy Mangan to represent the series, held Wednesday at the McDaniel Lounge.
"I have to say, I'm flattered at my colleague's' insistence that I be the poet," Mangan said. "After shepherding the reading for three decades, I'm honored to be selected."
Mangan said despite the title of lecture, she views the event more as a modified poetry reading. At the event she plans on taking the time between poems to discuss the craft of writing, the theories behind different works and generally introduce the concepts behind each piece. Mangan said oftentimes people have a skewed image of the creative process, and she wishes to introduce them to the work it takes to create poetry.
"A poem is very much a construction of your making," Mangan said. "A poem is not three-dimensional, but there is still the feeling you've crafted something. I try to disabuse students of the idea that there's a muse tapping you on the shoulder and telling you what to write. It's work."
The annual lecture began 30 years ago as a way to honor the memory of McDaniel student B. Christopher Bothe, who graduated in 1972 and passed away in 1984. Bothe was an involved student, and Mangan said his role as an active writer and activist on campus was remembered by all who knew him.
Throughout the years, the lecture has hosted poets including Billy Collins, Claudia Emerson and Phillip Levine. Mangan said it's both humbling and daunting to follow up in the footsteps of such distinguished poets, and that she hopes to live up to the series' high standards.
"I think a reading like this is really a cultural treasure, in that it's ongoing and people can count on it happening every spring," Mangan said. "It's an opportunity for our students but also the townspeople to gather together in the community."
Mangan said poetry, as it is written specifically to be heard, has a unique power to bring people together. She said the oral traditions that began it have been passed down through the ages, creating a special celebration surrounding poetry.
"To hear a poet has kind of a sacred space about it, not to be too highfaluting" Mangan said. "It's a chance for all of us to come together."
In her work, Mangan said she hopes to bring attention to unique aspects of universal feelings, be they love, death or the beauty of nature. She said her approach is to not attack readers or listeners with a philosophical approach, but just to introduce them to new ways of thinking.
"That's the daily struggle, to not rely on cliché or platitude," Mangan said. "I have to be honest to my own experience and vision, but recreate it in a fresh way. People may not be able to relate to my exact experience, but I'm sure they've had the same sorrows or ecstasies, passions or regrets."
At the event, Mangan will recite pieces including "Making Applesauce," "An Aritmetic," and "Above the Treeline," as well as pieces created for the reading. Mangan, who is currently on a sabbatical from teaching at the school, said she's appreciated the opportunity to focus on her work, with a defined deadline to have new pieces created so they can be read at the performance.
"I've always been interested in how visual artists have a gallery show or exhibit coming up and they'll be working nonstop," Mangan said. "I go up to my study every morning now to think and read and write, and I feel like I'm putting on the metaphorical hard hat and grabbing my lunchbox and going to work."
If You Go
What: Bothe Poetry Lecture
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 6
Where: McDaniel Lounge, McDaniel College, 2 College Hill, Westminster