Returning XU Professor Reveals New Poetry

By Marty Dubecky, Multimedia Managing Editor  

Last Wednesday, English professor emeritus Dr. Norman Finkelstein took to the podium in McDonald Library to read from and converse about his new poetry collection Further Adventures.

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Dr. Finkelstein taught English at Xavier starting in 1980 and retired in 2020 to work on his poetry. Throughout his career, Finkelstein has penned and published 13 books of poetry and six volumes of literary criticism. His most recent work, Further Adventures, was published by Cincinnati publisher Dos Madres Press this Sept.

As a part of the Humanities Reading Room series of poetry readings and speakers, Finkelstein was invited back to Xavier to read from his most recent collection and engage in conversation afterwards. 

Xavier English professor Dr. Kristen Renzi moderated the event. She introduced Finkelstein and his work, noting that a longer and more intensive introduction was needed to describe this new collection.

When asked to summarize Finkelstein’s work in a sentence or two, she provided her own interpretation.

“Norman’s work in these most recent collections has been loosely interested in telling this story about a foundation and the motley crew of characters who live and work within it. And it’s a fantastical place,” Renzi said.

She explained that this poetry is not typical rhyming, narrative or lyrical poetry. It tells the story of an androgynous character Pascal Wanderlust, who is tasked with putting back in order an abstract, science fictional foundation called the Imminent Foundation.

“A dark, fragmented narrative weirdly illuminated by sudden bursts of lyricism,” Finkelstein said when asked to put his own work into words.

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According to both Finkelstein and Renzi, poetry is difficult to understand, especially contemporary poetry. Both Renzi and Finkelstein spoke on their beliefs regarding the importance of poetry in our university.

“A lot of modern poetry is difficult, and a lot of poetry of any sort is not easily understood upon a first hearing,” Finkelstein said. “Studying poetry can be of enormous benefit to all undergraduates, regardless of their major or personal interest. It heightens our awareness of linguistic expression. It gives us a deeper sense of inwardness. It renews our understanding and appreciation of the world around us.” 

While suffering humanities departments are on her mind as an English professor, Renzi admitted, she sees the challenge and importance of poetry now more than ever.

“Xavier is also undergoing transformation. What that will mean is yet to be seen. There is worth in holding out space and time in one’s life to read the words, ideas, thoughts, emotions and experiences of other people and to take those seriously,”  Renzi said.

Both Dr. Renzi and Dr. Finkelstein plan to hold more events, poetry readings and conversations as a part of the Humanities Reading Room series. With local publisher Dos Madres Press celebrating its 25th anniversary soon, Renzi and Finkelstein hope to include them in an upcoming event. 

As for the near future, Dr. Finkelstein continues to work on new, more lyrical poetry.  Dr. Finkelstein announced he will also  return to Xavier, teaching a class entitled “Reading Freud” next semester.