By Anna Dunlavey
Professor of English and Editor of the Kenyon Review David Lynn addressed a small audience, most of whom had consumed about four glasses of wine, in the Gund Gallery during Tuesday night’s “An Evening of Wine and Poetry.” “Learning how to appreciate wine is an aesthetic experience similar to learning to appreciate poetry,” Lynn said. “It takes some time to train your palate.” Those who had stayed for the poetry part of the event, inspired by the Gallery’s exhibition “Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art,” seemed to agree with that.
Many people, however, had left the event, sponsored by the anthropology department, the Kenyon Review and the Gund Gallery, after the wine portion concluded. Additionally, two of the poets scheduled to read, Associate Professor of Spanish Katherine Hedeen and Professor of Spanish Victor Rodríguez-Núñez, were not in attendance due to illness. However, those who made it to the event took part in a fun and sophisticated evening.
The event began at 7 p.m., when Professor of Anthropology Bruce Hardy took the floor in a green kilt. “I wear a kilt any time I need to dress up a bit,” Hardy wrote in an email to the Collegian. Hardy began the night with a tutorial on how one can taste wine and reassured the sometimes confused crowd that “there is no right way to do this.” He encouraged participants to be descriptive in how they thought the wine tasted or smelled, reiterating that was no right or wrong answer.
The crowd of about 60 people tasted four wines of varying degrees of dryness over the course of the hour, all purchased from either the Village Market or Kroger. Hardy emphasized that wine does not need to be expensive in order to be of good quality. “A good wine is a wine you like,” he told the crowd.
Hardy thought the tasting went well and was happy to share his knowledge with Kenyon students and faculty. “Ultimately, drinking wine is about commensality,” he said. “Also, the more knowledge you gain about wine (or beer), the more likely you are to treat it as a valued product rather than just an alcoholic drink.”
Professor of English Thomas Hawks, who read his poetry later on in the event, said that although he had had some of the wines before, “it was nice to slow down and pay attention to them.”
After the tasting finished, those who decided to stay moved upstairs to the Buchwald-Wright Gallery on the second floor for the poetry reading. Hawks and two other professors of English, Andy Grace ’01 and Janet McAdams, all read original work pertaining to the themes of FEAST.
Grace read poetry from his experience growing up on a former family dairy farm, including poems with his own words interwoven with passages from farmers’ diaries. McAdams read six prose poems, all pertaining to food as well as to the body. Hawks read one of his own poems, as well as two more from other poets, staying within the themes of food and radical hospitality. “I was looking for something that I thought would connect well with an audience in one hearing,” Hawks said.
Hardy agreed with Lynn’s assertion that poetry and wine are analogous. “In both cases, you are engaging your brain with your aesthetics,” he wrote in an email. “In wine tasting, you are asked to pay attention to what your senses are telling you.”
Hawks also echoed Lynn. “There is a longstanding tradition of linking wine and poetry,” he said, citing how Geoffrey Chaucer was given a royal grant of a gallon of wine daily. “They are great pleasures, they are both intoxicating, there are some of both of them which appeal immediately and some of both of them that require more contemplation.”
This was not the first Feast event to feature the art of drinking alcohol, and it will not be the last. A repeat performance of Tom Marioni’s The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art, which was first performed on September 17, will be held in the Gallery on November 19.