David Chappell

Photo by Christopher Khew

“I confess I fall in love with words, the sound and color and flavor of words every day, or at least the days I get to spend

Nezhukumatathil took questions on inspiration, free-verse and sassiness.

Nezhukumatathil took questions on inspiration, free-verse and sassiness.

reading and researching. How can you come across words like okapi, kakamora, dousing, and wentletrap and not fall madly, hopelessly in love? How can you not ache to write them, let your speech be infused with them like herbs in a delicate oil?”

This quote, from guest speaker and renowned poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil, spoken by Daniel Soo ’17, marked the return of the President’s speaker series in style, on Wednesday, Oct. 15. While Soo may have had to clarify the meaning of “okapi,” “kakamora” and “wentletrap,” the quote successfully set the stage for Nezhukumatathil’s evening of poetry; in which, she would be reading from her three award-winning collections, Lucky Fish (2011), Miracle Fruit (2003) and At the Drive-In Volcano (2007).

Over the course of the event, Nezhukumatathil’s exploration of words saw her examining the origin of the the fruit mango, a fear of long words (sadistically called “hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia”) and her last name, which the more astute readers may already have noticed is rather unique, as well as fielding questions from intrigued audience members. In addition, earlier that day, five lucky students were given the chance to work with her on their poetry, learning to experiment with persona’s and empathy through the exploration of unusual phobias.

While President Pericles Lewis did say that, “it isn’t really symbolic who goes first in a given year,” Nezhukumatathil marked the start of an exciting line up of the coming year’s President’s speakers. This is thanks, in part, to Yale-NUS College co-sponsoring the Bridges series of lectures, a scheme that will see Nobel laureates coming to South-east Asia to “encourage peace” and for “cultural communication,” as Lewis noted.

The next President’s speaker will be Geoff Dyer, a novelist and essayist, who will be coming to Yale-NUS on Nov. 5.

The current line-up of President’s speakers (Source: Office of the President)

Year Date Speaker Topic
2014 November 5-6 Geoff Dyer An Evening with Geoff Dyer
November 7 President David Oxtoby (Pomona) Dialogue Between Presidents — The Future of liberal Arts in Asia and North America
2015 January 21-22 Brian P. Schmidt (BRIDGES) Astrophysics/Science: Humanity’s Universal Bridge
February 2-6 Jane Hirshfield TBC
February 11-12 Mohamed El Baradei (BRIDGES) Global Equity and Security
March 9 Paul Sabin TBC
March 11 Emily Bazelon TBC
April 15 Dr. Noeleen Heyzer We The Peoples: A Leadership Journey in the United Nations
Septermber 16 Olivia Lum TBC
TBC Chan Heng Chee TBC

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