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What's strange, ambiguous and sometimes scary? Professor explores this everyday thing in The Atlantic

December 6, 2013

In an essay featured nationally, Loyola University New Orleans English professor Mark Yakich, Ph.D., explores the poem—the everyday thing most view as sometimes strange and scary, yet always different. Published in The Atlantic, Yakich uses his experience teaching college students for “What is a Poem?”

The essay is part of the Object Lessons series spearheaded by fellow professor Chris Schaberg, Ph.D. The quirky essay and book series uncovers the secret lives of objects and incorporates stories of how they transform the world.

“A poem practically dares you not just to look but to read: I am different. I am special. I am other. Ignore me at your peril,” Yakich wrote in his essay.

His students often describe a poem as “a painting in words,” “a medium for self-expression” or “a song that rhymes and displays beauty.” But Yakich uncovers more behind the everyday thing that has the power not only to baffle his students, but the rest of the world as well.

“Because of its special status—set apart in a magazine or a book, all that white space pressing upon it—a poem still has the ability to surprise, if only for a moment which is outside all the real and virtual, the aural and digital chatter that envelopes it, and us,” according to his essay.

More Object Lessons essays are featured online in The Atlantic; the subject matter ranges from airport jet bridges and blankets to Domino’s Pizza and other everyday things. Bloomsbury will publish the corollary book series, which it plans to feature in venues such as the Tate Modern art museum in London. The first book in the series—“Remote Control”—is written by Caetlin Benson-Allott of Georgetown University. Loyola’s Robert Hunter Distinguished professor John Biguenet is also working on a compelling project, called “Silence,” for the series.

Follow the series on Twitter: @objectsobjects.

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