MCC Daily Tribune

President's Wednesday Message

As we are already staring at August and wondering how it got here so quickly, it seems a good time to pause for a summer poem: "Vacation" by Rita Dove.

Dove has served as US Poet Laureate, Virginia Poet Laureate, and special consultant in poetry for the Library of Congress. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, she teaches at the University of Virginia. Dove's writing is always vivid and clear; the pictures she conjures are at once strikingly new and completely familiar. She has a particular talent for rendering both the most mundane and the most painful topics in ways that bring them close, transforming readers' understanding and upending expectations. I find an everyday beauty in Dove's poetry that at first seems ethereal but is really tough as nails. In this poem, she captures the compelling desire for escape that lies below the surface tedium at an airport gate.


Rita Dove

I love the hour before takeoff,

that stretch of no time, no home

but the gray vinyl seats linked like

unfolding paper dolls. Soon we shall

be summoned to the gate, soon enough

there'll be the clumsy procedure of row numbers

and perforated stubs--but for now

I can look at these ragtag nuclear families

with their cooing and bickering

or the heeled bachelorette trying

to ignore a baby's wail and the baby's

exhausted mother waiting to be called up early

while the athlete, one monstrous hand

asleep on his duffel bag, listens,

perched like a seal trained for the plunge.

Even the lone executive

who has wandered this far into summer

with his lasered itinerary, briefcase

knocking his knees--even he

has worked for the pleasure of bearing

no more than a scrap of himself

into this hall. He'll dine out, she'll sleep late,

they'll let the sun burn them happy all morning

--a little hope, a little whimsy

before the loudspeaker blurts

and we leap up to become

Flight 828, now boarding at Gate 17.

I hope each of you has already found or will find time to sleep late and experience the sun burned whimsy and happiness of summer.

I also hope your summer reading includes Cabbages & Kings, MCC's Visual and Literary Magazine--which is hot (summer pun) off the presses. This impressive student journal was edited by Paige DeLuca and Daniella Insalaco with support from faculty advisors Marj Crum (VAPA) and Patrick Callan (English/Philosophy). It includes student poems, prose, and visual art. One of my favorite pieces this year is Amalia Russell's "The Forest"; here's a short passage:

The first thing you will see when you enter the forest is black. Not the dense black of ink, but the strange darkness that only ever appears when you close your eyes and stare at the back of your eyelids. You can feel the ground beneath your feet, and invisible blades of grass tickle your ankles.

My thanks to our incredibly talented students who have shared their works in Cabbages & Kings and to the talented and dedicated faculty who work with them every day. We have so much to be proud of at MCC!

Is there a poem or story that says "summer" for you? I hope you will share it in the comments on the blog.

Kress, Anne
Office of the President