Where's the Dean?
Ira Allen Chapel, UVM
One evening back in early April I was reading a Naomi Shihab Nye poem and decided to take a break and google this poet, who is truly one of my favorites. I wondered if by any amazing possibility, she might be coming to Burlington or somewhere close by to do a reading. Much to my surprise, she was. In fact, she was coming the very next day! I was stunned--and delighted--and determined to go.
Naomi Shihab Nye was coming as part of the Full Circle Festival. I could not attend any other festival events, but I was determined that I would hear Naomi Shihab Nye read and speak on Friday, April 11.
And I did. She read from her poems and also read poems from other poets. She gave out little snippets of her poems and suggested we tuck them in our pockets to pull out when we needed a few poetic words.
After reading poems, she presented the keynote for the Festival. Her keynote was titled, "A Shadow or a Friend: How Words Travel with Us." She shared her reflections about writing, specifically about writing poetry and about her growth as a poet. It was a lovely, lovely Friday evening--the perfect end to a very full and busy week.
The keynote was held in the Ira Allen Chapel on the campus of the University of Vermont. It is easy to find because of the gold domed bell tower. Arriving early (I am perpetually early), I sat and read a bit of the history of the chapel which was completed in 1926.
Even though it looks like a chapel, has pew seating like a chapel, and was originally built to serve as a chapel, there was a clear message sent with these words: "Ira Allen Chapel is not used for religious services." The statement was so blunt, it was as if UVM wanted to really separate itself from that aspect of the chapel's history--almost like saying, "We don't participate in such foolishness any longer." I found that a bit curious. But it was also somewhat of a relief, as the box pews are (as most are) notably uncomfortable. I was happy to find a folding chair near the front (a benefit of being perpetually early).
It was a very lovely space to hear Naomi Shihab Nye read her words, the words of others and to ponder and reflect about the words that travel with us all, as well as to discover another place in Burlington, Vermont.