My brother graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2009. After the ceremony in the Reilly Center Arena, graduates, families and professors congregated outside on the lawn adjacent to the R.C. Cameras clicked, family members smiled, hands were shaken.
As a freshman at SBU, I am under the impression that this photo-op on the aforementioned lawn is a traditional end to graduation.
Now the lawn is muddy. Shovels have prodded the land, marking an ‘X’ for the new business building (due here in 2013… yeah right!). By the time 2015 rolls around, post-graduation photos will be shot elsewhere, or feature a modern building as a backdrop (modern is very unlike Bonaventure).
It’s not so much the end of the photo tradition. It’s about the view beyond. The mountain view just beyond the athletic fields is spectacular. So much so that, here on campus, a Save The View! campaign erupted in an attempt to, well, save the view. Petitions were passed. A Facebook page was created. Articles in The Bona Venture and The Intrepid ran. Some people agreed with the petitioners, others believed the Save The View! cause to be futile. The topic resulted in arguments on social networking sites, mainly on Facebook via The BonaMemes page (after someone posted my brother’s “ad” and someone commented about losing that view). Things became heated. People asked for your opinion on the topic like they would about worldwide controversies like abortion.
Students, alumni and board members who support the location of the new business building, and tell opposers to shut up, need to realize the real reasons behind the opposition. For most, it isn’t personal. If you had paid attention in The Intellectual Journey (the class we are all forced to take), you would understand Bonaventure’s deep connection with nature. There’s a whole step in the required $150 textbook titled “Imaginative Perspectives On The Natural World.” But even before that step, Colinvaux’s “The Succession Affair” and Leopold’s “Reading The Forest Landscape” are featured. St. Bonaventure modeled himself after St. Francis, who was known for his love of animals. Francis loved nature, and since so many pieces at St. Bonaventure University are attributed to St. Francis (Clare College, Francis Hall, La Verna [Alverno], Damietta Center), the university should respect those values. It’s insulting to the university to build an edifice that will block what people love most about Bonaventure. Merton’s Heart will no longer be visible from the sidewalk, and the view that soothes students studying in the library on the quiet floor will shift to one that might stress them out more.
I’m not Catholic, but I believe the values of the university should be preserved. When you go to a university that has its own mountain retreat (Mount Irenaeus), a place where students can escape stress by embracing nature, it should be expected that the little breath of fresh air on campus, such as a pleasant mountain view, would be a little more important.
It’s been awhile since I have heard anything about Save The View! on campus. Ground has been broken for the William E. and Ann L. Swan Business Center (named after its benefactors, of course) and students just have to sit tight and watch the building rise from the ground and slowly block more and more of the precious view.
That being said, The Laurel, St. Bonaventure’s semesterly published literary magazine, came out yesterday (April 30). I skimmed through it. If words caught my eye or if I recognized an author, I viewed his/her creative work. Long poems scare me, so I steered clear of them. Today I decided to give the longer poems a chance.
The first one completely blew me away.
The poem, titled “Swan Song” is deep, chock full of every poetic device known to man and brings up the Save The View! issue once again, this time in a more sad, defeated way. It begins with two quotes: one from Gerard Manley Hopkins and the other from Thomas Merton; Hopkins’s taken directly from that $150 Intellectual Journey textbook I mentioned before.
The rest of the poem is ballsy. Pat Hosken, the author and a member of SBU’s Class of 2012 (not to mention a personal friend to my brother and me), did his research. Anyone without prior knowledge of St. Bonaventure or the business building issue would have no idea what his poem means.
Right off the bat, the title has a meaning. The business building bears the name “Swan,” named after the couple providing funds for the building. A “swan song” is defined as a person’s final performance. Hosken’s last big performance in The Laurel is with “Swan Song.” It’s a lucky coincidence that the building it’s about will be named “Swan.”
Hosken uses personification for the lawn: “O Hallowed Ground! Your muddy surface tells / of your vast desecration and your pain. / The diggers come with claws to scratch your skin” … “and once you’ve been reduced to soggy mush, / they build a monolith upon your back.” The words “desecration” and “monolith” help set the tone of the poem. Hosken clearly dislikes the soon-to-be business building and its location.
Two of my favorite lines of his entire poem fall in the first stanza, directly after mentioning the monolith, Hosken writes, “vile villains will an urge to steal a view / and lock it in a chamber of commerce.” Hosken’s word choice is impeccable. The chamber of commerce (business) is literally a chamber, holding the view hostage.
Hosken turns the swan into a monster. “The monolith named for a delicate bird / turned mad by greed and violent now, complete / with a beak that pecks and tears out gazers’ eyes.” He calls the money donated “dirty” and reflects on Bonaventure’s past with names of those who came before us and saw inspiration in the view’s beauty. Then he ventures inside the new business building.
“Nature is but a painting on the wall, / an oil-on-canvas dangling from a string / to decorate a barren office space,” Hosken writes. So, basically, those who work in the building that ruins the view for others on campus have the privilege to sit in their respective offices and enjoy said view. To them, it’ll simply be a painting on the wall that is taken for granted.
Hosken then reflects on his own experience with the view. Maybe his Intellectual Journey professor moved class outside like mine often does and that’s where he first heard the work of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Maybe the mountains inspired him to write and that’s why he decided to add a major in English on top of his journalism/mass communication one. No matter what the reason, Hosken makes sure the reader knows that crushing the view is a personal letdown to him.
“Father Gerard,” as Hosken refers to Hopkins (whoa, their last names are eerily similar!), makes an appearance in another favorite line of mine: “Or you, solemn foot-fields where numerous / generations have traipsed, have tramped, have trod.” His use of alliteration can be accredited to Hopkins, who used the same sort of alliteration in his poem “God’s Grandeur,” with the same effect. Hosken writes, in his second-to-last stanza: “I won’t forget the seconds I have spent / with all the pied beauty of this fair place, / and though we can’t return to what we know, / and though we’ll long for open fields and lawn / and see atrocious squares of grey instead” … “we take our forest with us in our minds.”
Hosken’s words are beautiful. The first few pages of the Spring 2012 issue of The Laurel should not be overlooked. They will forever be documented in The Laurel‘s extensive archives. Hosken, along with comrade Chris Radey, made sure they went out with a bang for their last issue of The Laurel as Editors-in-Chief.
They took a risk. Hopefully reverberations will be heard for years to come.
Their effort thoroughly impressed me. It should impress you, too.
And now, for your reading pleasure, the first few pages of The Laurel.