Katherine Burgess can't talk about poetry without quoting from it.
"I, too, dislike it," she quotes from "Poetry," a poem by Marianne Moore, "there are things that are important beyond
this fiddle. Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in it, after all, a place for the
Burgess has organized, for the third year in a row, a summer speaking series for the Durango Unitarian Universalist
Fellowship. This year's theme is "Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads in Them: The Power of Poetry," which takes its
title from that famous Moore poem.
Burgess, who went back to college as a nontraditional student, earned a doctorate in humanities at the age of 60. She
teaches the subject at both Fort Lewis College and Southwest Colorado Community College.
"I've always admired poets, and I'm not one," she said. "Poetry finds order in a disorderly universe. It creates a
new order at the same time."
She said she was surprised at how quickly the speaking schedule filled up, featuring current and retired professors, actors, poets and even an exercise scientist.
Burgess will kick off the series Sunday with a talk called "Poetry: Sense and Nonsense," setting the stage for the
"Sense is bringing our experience into language," Burgess said. "Nonsense is more sensual, adding rhythm and meter."
Burgess, who is interested in science as well as art, said research has shown that the rhyme and meter of poetry
affects our neurological patterns and circadian rhythms - an actual physiological response.
"True poetry marries both sense and nonsense," she said. "We understand 'Jabberwocky' because of patterns, not
Burgess is a particular fan of Robert Frost, who not only wrote poetry but also wrote about it.
"His writings on poetry were really astute," she said. "He said children are not properly educated unless they're
educated in metaphors, and that's what poetry does."
That increased ability in vocabulary increases people's ability to express themselves, Burgess said.
"We're bringing experience into linguistic form," she said. "We're using physical acts to express our emotional
state, such as 'My heart leapt up' to express joy."
In the end, Burgess said, it is the epiphanies and understanding that come from poetry that are necessary to the
"Someone who's opened up a new world or cleared up something that hadn't been clear," she said. "Good poetry should