Professor reveals ancient and modern sound effects of poetry

Author: BHSU Communications/Wednesday, February 11, 2015/Categories: 2015








           Dr. Nicholas Wallerstein, professor of English at BHSU, presents a poetry appreciation lecture Thursday, Feb. 19 at 4 p.m. in Jonas Hall 110 on the BHSU campus.  The lecture focuses on the use of sound effects in poetry of different languages.



Before voice synthesizers, turntables and electronic sound mixers, poetry provided the genius of sound effects.  

Black Hills State University professor of English Dr. Nicholas Wallerstein will present a poetry appreciation lecture Thursday, Feb. 19 at 4 p.m. in Jonas Hall 110 on the BHSU campus.  The presentation is free and open to the public as part of the Geek Speak Lecture Series.

"Different poets in different languages focused on creating poetry that has sound effects," said Wallerstein.  "We&rsquore not only going to listen to how the languages sound but also how poets use specific words to imitate the sound they&rsquore describing."

Titled "The Sound (and a Bit of Sense) of Poetry from Ancient Times to the Present," Wallerstein&rsquos lecture will feature poetry readings in several languages including Greek, Latin, Old English, Medieval French, Hebrew and Arabic.  

Recordings and video of modern poets and experts in ancient language will accompany readings by Wallerstein in diverse dialects.

"Former students of Dr. Wallerstein know you don&rsquot want to miss a chance to hear him read," said Dr. Courtney Huse-Wika, assistant professor of English and director of University Honors at BHSU.

Wallerstein will provide English translations for the poetry read in different languages, but even without translation he says you can still hear the sound quality and the effects poets create using the way different words sound.

"Some passages are so famous that the audience will enjoy hearing how the poetry sounded in the original language," said Wallerstein.  "In the opening to Homer&rsquos Iliad, for example, Homer compares the Trojan and Greek troops to ocean waves."

Wallerstein will review poetry from Homer, Virgil, Catullus, the Qur&rsquoan, Beowulf, Chaucer, Francois Villon, W.B. Yeats, and Dylan Thomas during the lecture.

"Students tend to be kind of scared of poetry because they don&rsquot really understand it it&rsquos difficult for them," said Wallerstein.  "But you can read a poem, have no idea what it means, and still be entranced by the sound.  You can still appreciate the beauty of the language."

The Geek Speak lecture series, sponsored by the BHSU University Honors program, features academic discussion and topics not normally discussed in the traditional classroom.  The goal of the weekly lectures is to expose students to diversity within the disciplines.

For more information on Geek Speak, contact Huse-Wika at or 605-642-6918.

Upcoming Geek Speak topics include:

Feb. 26: Dr. Tom Arnold: "Butchers, Buffoons, and 'Basterds': Nazis in Popular Culture"

March 5: Dr. Chris Hahn and Professor Kelly Kirk: "On Black Politic Music of the 1970s"

March 19: Dr. William Cockrell: "On Gender and Gaming"

March 26: Dr. David Cremean: "Breaking Bad and the Inexhaustibility of Extreme Metaphor"

April 9: Dr. Dan May: "&ltInsert Relevant Song Title Here&gt:  The Rise and Fall of American Alternative Rock"

April 16: Dr. Aris Karagiorgakis: "The Truth is in Here: Why 12 Million Americans Believe Lizard People Run the Country (and other "crazy" conspiracies)"

April 23: John Ginther: "On Game of Thrones"

April 30: Dr. Dave Berberick: "On the History of Heavy Metal"

May 5 and May 7: The Defense (Capstone defense for University Honors seniors)

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