Reading with Sydney Lea
By Melanie Oliva, media intern
On the first official summer evening of 2016, the Marble House Project hosted Sydney Lea, the former poet laureate of Vermont. Lea’s list of credentials is extensive: he served as the poet laureate from 2011 to 2015, is a college professor, a published author and critic in many formal publications, and a Pulitzer Prize finalist.
All said, Lea created a friendly and personal setting for his reading. The crowd, nestled in the barn behind the Marble House, listened as Lea read from No Doubt the Nameless and recounted the stories that inspired the works.
Lea’s poems reflect on a rural upbringing and late adulthood. They touch on themes of coming-of-age, nature, love, and loss. His works read like elegies, lamenting on his past and a youth that has expired. At the same time, however, Lea’s poems can be read with some optimism—the images and themes of his younger years carry through into reflections on his adulthood. They resonated with the audience.
When asked how and when he knew he was a poet, Lea responded as many poets do: he had no idea that he was a poet until he started writing. Even after teaching one of the first creative writing courses at Dartmouth College, producing his own work and doing readings, many were still confused about his genre. About one of his collections, a student once asked, “Are those real poems or did you make them up?” They were both, of course.
At the Marble House Project event, Lea also reflected on his role as Vermont’s poet laureate. The position has a rich history, full of diverse and talented authors, most notably, Robert Frost. Although each approached their duties as poet laureate in different ways, Lea said that his goal for the position was to get people to read poetry, listen to poetry, or just enjoy language.
After the night’s reading, I certainly appreciated the poetry of Vermont more. Many thanks to the Marble House Project for hosting this free reading. You can find information on the Marble House Project’s upcoming summer events on their website. We are all looking forward to the rest of the events you’ll be hosting this summer!