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Wide-ranging poetry exhibit on display at LSUS library

The James Smith Noel Collection celebrates poetry with the exhibit “From Homer to E.E. Cummings: Poetry in the Noel Collection".

Most students have been exposed to epic poems like The Iliad and Beowulf or to masterful poets like Geoffrey Chaucer and Lord Alfred Tennyson. But have you ever seen these historic works of literature in printings that are centuries old, including some printings that occurred during the author’s lifetime? The James Smith Noel Collection is celebrating poetry with the exhibit “From Homer to E.E. Cummings: Poetry in the Noel Collection.”

Campus and community members are invited to view the collection on the third floor of the Noel Memorial Library on the LSUS campus. The collection will be on display until July 7 with viewing times available from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. each weekday.

“I hope (attendees) get an appreciation for the different types of poetry and what their purpose is,” said Martha Lawler, director of the Noel Collection. “Sometimes it’s just to tell a pretty story or express a sentiment, but sometimes it’s meant to make you think.

“What we really emphasize here and love to do is to connect people with older materials -- especially students, who are so used to modern things. We want them to get an appreciation of older things and that they still have something to say.”

The poetry exhibit consists of nearly 50 selections, ranging from classics like John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” (1873 printing) and Dante Aligheri’s “Divine Comedy” (1895 printing) to a book of poems included in the landmark “The Chronicles of Shreveport”, a 1929 publication that serves as the first published history of the city. The exhibit features the second-oldest publication in the Noel Collection, a 1493 printing of De Poetica Virtue written by Italian Antonio Mancinelli, a teacher who likely prepared this text to teach students in his grammar course. The poems are written in Latin. While the exhibit features many famous poets and works, some writers gained notoriety only posthumously.

Phillis Wheatley, an enslaved woman who learned to read and write in the service of a prominent Boston family, was the first African-American to publish a book of poetry in 1773. An 1838 publication of that collection “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral” is on display. The exhibit celebrates modern poetry as well with the works of E.E. Cummings and Chilean Pablo Neruda.

The collection also features Louisiana poets and a few works from LSUS alumni.

The poetry exhibit displays works from the James Smith Noel Collection. The Shreveport native amassed approximately 200,000 volumes over the course of his life, which were stored in an abandoned train station before LSUS agreed to house the collection. The university and the state constructed the Noel Memorial Library on the LSUS campus to hold and maintain the collection.

The collection, which is the largest private collection of antiquarian books in the U.S., is open for public use, and scholars come from all over the world to view its tomes.

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