In my first semester at Guilford College I took an interdisciplinary course required of all entering students that remains, to this day, one of my favorite academic classes ever. Our first reading assignment, Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, set the stage for exploration of the interaction of our inner and outer worlds. We read Faulkner, Tillich, Asimov and many other great writers and thinkers. In my own section of the course, each period began with a recitation of Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s “People.” Enjoy.
No people are uninteresting.
Their fate is like the chronicle of planets.
Nothing in them is not particular,
and planet is dissimilar from planet.
And if a man lived in obscurity
making his friends in that obscurity
obscurity is not uninteresting.
To each his world is private,
and in that world one excellent minute.
And in that world, one tragic minute.
These are private.
In any man who dies there dies with him
his first snow and kiss and fight.
It goes with him.
They are left books and bridges
and painted canvas and machinery.
Whose fate is to survive.
But what has gone is also not nothing:
by the rule of the game something has gone.
Not people die but worlds die in them.
Whom we knew as faulty, the earth’s creatures.
Of whom, essentially, what did we know?
Brother of a brother? Friend of friends?
Lover of lover?
We who knew our fathers
in everything, in nothing.
They perish. The cannot be brought back.
The secret worlds are not regenerated.
And every time again and again
I make my lament against destruction.