How we reconcile the self with what is beyond the self is something students struggle with all the time.

During Paula Closson Buck's college years, a friend handed her Pablo Neruda's book Extravagaria, where she first read the poem, "A Dream of Trains." It includes these lines: "Perhaps I am travelling, along with them, perhaps the steam of the journey, the wet rails, perhaps everything lives in the stationary train, and I am a sleeping passenger waking up suddenly in misery." In this poem, Buck discovered Neruda's rich imagery and metaphor, along with his passion for life, and she knew she wanted to write.

Closson Buck is a Professor of English, the parent of a student in the Bucknell Class of 2012, and a poet. She also has written travel essays and is at work on a novel. Most of Closson Buck's writing has been inspired by experiences of travel to places like Greece, Nicaragua and India. She loves the de-familiarization that travel affords the writer.

Like Neruda's work, her poetry investigates the intersection of the personal or metaphysical with the historical and the political. She says, "As a young writer, I was told poetry and politics didn't mix. It shocked me to meet poets who talked about poetry as an ethical endeavor. I feared that meant you had to leave the aesthetic behind. But I like the idea that I can hang on to the notion of beauty. It isn't outmoded. I can combine it with political consciousness and a sensibility that takes into account the historical. How we reconcile the self with what is beyond the self is something students struggle with all the time."

Through juxtaposition students can easily extrapolate to the realm of ideas, a dynamic applicable to critical thinking. "Taking risks in thinking and supporting those risks with craft are things Bucknell prides itself on," says Closson Buck. Recalling a quote by the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, "Live the questions," she says, "I think that's what great poets learn to do. They articulate in ways that have never been articulated - the big and small questions."

Posted Sept. 13, 2011

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