The Poet's Perspective: 'Kouros' records experiences during travel

November 01, 2010

Robin Becker, the 2010-11 Penn State laureate and professor of English and women's studies at the University, is sharing several of her poems via video during the 2010-11 academic year, aiming to engage people "in the deep pleasures of poetry -- language crafted and shaped from words, the 'ordinary' material we all use every day," to explore how and why poems move us.

"The Poet's Perspective" is a weekly poetry video series scheduled to appear during the fall 2010 and spring 2011 semesters on Penn State Live and in Penn State Newswires. Prior to each poem, Becker offers her thoughts about what inspired her to write the piece, then poses a question to consider. Below and in the video link of "Kouros," Becker offers a response to her encounters and experiences while traveling in Greece.

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Several years ago, on the Greek island of Naxos, I climbed a hill with other tourists to see a famous kouros, a stone sculpture of a young man. This one stretched the length of the hillside, and I felt almost embarrassed to come upon him and stare. Several encounters that day plunged me back in time, as if I could, in the present, experience ancient and contemporary Greece simultaneously.

Question to consider: Under what conditions have you felt transported in time to another period? Where and when?


We found the stone man lying in a ditch
a short walk from the harbor with its flags
and identical sidewalk tavernas.
His torso stretched two stories down the slope,
his stone beard mimicked the shape of the bay,
where a woman beat a goatskin on rocks,
slapping and pounding as the surf banged in.
They say the carvers left him where he lay,
too heavy to move; we sat beside his
broken hands and sunken eyes. At the quay,
the woman thrashed flensed skin on stone.

"Kouros" originally appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Spring/Summer 2008.

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Robin Becker will visit several Penn State Commonwealth Campuses this fall; view her schedule of appearances at online. To read or watch videos of previous poems in the series, click here. To listen to an occasional podcast series where Becker and a small group of students and faculty discuss one of her poems, visit "Liberal Arts Voices."

  • To watch a video of Robin Becker reading 'Kouros' in the Palmer Museum of Art, click on the image above.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated November 18, 2010