Judith Baumel, professor in the Department of English, loves Italy. She loves the history, the language and running into a new village nearly every five miles that is unlike any village she's encountered before.
Judith Baumel, professor in the Department of English, loves Italy. She loves the history, the language and running into a new village nearly every five miles that is unlike any village she’s encountered before. One of her favorite Italian customs is that of passeggiate, an Italian term for evening strolls for perhaps a chat, a coffee or an aperitivo. Passeggiate is also the title she’s given her poetry collection that was published in December 2019 by Arrowsmith.
“[T]his book takes us on a series of urgent walks and conversations,” said Baumel, who is also founding director of Adelphi’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. “With characters from classical pastoral poems reborn as contemporary Sicilians and Bronxites, these poems depict love and war, lyric and loss, justice and anger.”
Music and poetry have a conversation
On December 14, 2019, people gathered in Saint John’s in the Village for “Baumel & Boquiren: A Book Launch & Concert” to celebrate Baumel’s poems. Supported by the College of Arts and Sciences, the book launch also included the world premiere of Tre Passeggiate, a musical setting to accompany Baumel’s poetry. It was composed by Sidney Boquiren, PhD, associate professor and department chair of music, and performed by New York City soprano Amber Evans and pianist Jeremy Chan.
The collaboration came to be when Baumel was given the opportunity to incorporate music into her book launch. She immediately thought of Dr. Boquiren. The two had been friends and colleagues at Adelphi for years. Plus, Baumel was a fan of his work. She was excited to hear her words and his music work together.
“Sidney unfolded for me new emotions and new rhythms within the poems. The expressive music created an interpretation of these poems that feels like a revelation,” said Baumel. “Jeremy Chan’s piano was like a running commentary on the poems. And Amber Evans brought her remarkable voice and remarkable skills to these songs so that listening to them became a physical experience. She took the poems out of my head and out of my mouth, actually, and I experienced them in my gut.”
Dr. Boquiren will be composing another piece of music inspired by one of Baumel’s Passeggiate poems at an upcoming Adelphi concert. On April 21, the German male vocal quintet amarcord will perform songs on the theme of love and music. Dr. Boquiren was invited to compose a piece and decided on setting another Baumel poem, “I Too Was Loved by Daphne.”
A cozy celebration with students and friends
This wasn’t the first event to celebrate Baumel’s new book. On December 11, 2019, the MFA in Creative Writing program sponsored Passeggiate: NYC Book Launch With Judy Baumel at KGB Bar. Surrounded by students, colleagues and friends, Baumel did an intimate reading of her poems, sprinkling in a few personal stories that inspired her poetry.
“These poems are about transitions that unfold in an hour, a day, over lifetimes and across generations,” said Rachel Stempel, a student in the MFA program.
Currently, Baumel is working on a memoir. Her previous books are The Weight of Numbers (Wesleyan Poetry 1988), for which she won the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets; The Kangaroo Girl (GenPop 2011), which was named a top five poetry book of 2011 by The Forward; and Now: A Collection of Poems (Miami University 1996). She has served as president of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs and director of the Poetry Society of America and was a Fulbright Scholar in Italy. Her poetry, translations and essays have been published in Poetry, The Yale Review, AGNI, The New York Times, The New Yorker and more. Her work is represented in a number of anthologies, including Telling and Remembering: A Century of Jewish American Poetry (Beacon 1997); Gondola Signore Gondola: Poems on Venice (Supernova 2007); and Poems of New York (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets 2002) and The Eloquent Poem: 128 Contemporary Poems and Their Making (Persea 2019).