Renowned Soviet poet Andrei Andreyevich Voznesensky arrived last week to spend this semester as a poet-in-residence, co-teaching a Russian poetry class and meeting students through a series of receptions and group activities. "It is a time of openness in the Soviet Union and we're looking for someone to share that with the students," School of Arts and Sciences Dean Hugo Sonnenschein said this month. Voznesensky will work closest with the 15 students in a class on contemporary Russian poetry, which he is co-teaching with Russian Professor Elliott Mossman, the director of the Center for Soviet and East European Studies. He will discuss prominent Russian poets -- particularly Pasternak and Blok -- and will try to teach the students how to create the visual poetry that he is best known for. Voznesensky will also participate in activities with Philomathean Society and with students on the Russian floor of Modern Languages House, and attend receptions through several departments. On Wednesday, Voznesensky will give a poetry reading with poet Allen Ginsberg. Voznesensky met Sonnenschein Friday to discuss topics including his living arrangements for the semester, politics and the economy in the Soviet Union today. Sonnenschein said he was particulary interested in Voznesensky's explanation of the extensive use of gestures in the Russian language. For example, the poet said that two fingers from one hand crossed over two fingers from another hand means "prison," and tracing one's eyebrows refers to former Soviet President and head of the Communist party Leonid Brezhnev. These and other gestures formed a secret code in the Soviet Union of the past, where censorship forbade free speech. The poet said that although he fought for many of the changes taking place today in the Soviet Union, he sometimes regrets the consequences. "Maybe it is dangerous, all this dark power," Voznesensky said. "I didn't know it was there. We are not really ready for this, but there is no way back." Despite the poet's doubts, Sonnenschein said that those changes have made it possible for the University to host Voznesensky. "Our privilege in having you here is something we could not have had before," he said. Voznesensky is the first of two prominent Russian poets scheduled to visit the campus this year. Yevgeny Yevtushenko will arrive in January for the spring semester. Mossman, who will co-teach the poetry class with Voznesensky, said he thinks students will enjoy Wednesday's reading because the poetry is unique and progressive and the style of reading is different in Russian than in English. "The voice modulates a lot more than when an American poet reads," Mossman said. Voznesensky's visit is funded by University alumnus and Trustee Saul Steinberg and his wife Gayfryd. The Steinbergs also fund the PEN at Penn program. The reading is Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the Harrison Auditorium of the University Museum. Admission is free.Comments powered by Disqus
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