David Lee speaks at SUU A.P.E.X. - 09/24/2020

David Lee

September 24, 2020
The Great Hall

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A.P.E.X. Events kicked off their Fall 2020 season with their usual tradition of welcoming home an SUU alumnus as the first speaker of both the season and the school year, but this event was a little different than normal. This year’s speaker was not an SUU alumnus, but instead beloved SUU Professor Emeritus of English and Utah’s first poet laureate, David Lee. Lee, former SUU Professor of English for over three decades, returned to the university to inspire both past and present students as well as members of the community 17 years after his retirement, and was received with overwhelming support and admiration. His influence in raising public awareness of literacy and the heritage of Utah has reached beyond the state’s borders, across the nation. As Lee himself describes, his expertise is in British literature and the poetry of John Milton. Despite always thinking he would be a novelist he has achieved immense success as a poet and a deservedly celebrated one, at that.

Lee’s presentation began with a humorously acknowledging introduction to the audience: “I think we have two things in common, all of us in here. One is we have an attachment to this university, I’m assuming that most of us are deeply in love with it, and number two, we have lived through one of the worst years in the history of the United States of America in many, many directions and angles, but of course, that includes our love affair with COVID, which we’re still celebrating. I see your masks out there everywhere. I don’t have it, but I will try not to spit on you.” Shortly after his initial statement, he read a COVID poem he had written over the summer. Lee mentioned that his lecture at SUU on September 24, 2020 had been the first time since the Coronavirus was declared as a worldwide pandemic that Lee had been around an audience, and told the audience of how he was worried that he’d humiliate himself. Instead, Lee’s honesty proved not to be a humiliating moment in his life, but rather a honoring one, testifying to his spirit of humility and influence that still lingers around the university.

Throughout his presentation, David Lee, through his unique poetic sense of humor, shared his stories and experiences as well as some poetry to his audience, consisting of long-time friends, faculty who loved working alongside him, and students, both ones who took classes from Lee years ago and ones who silently sat and admired, who had the utmost respect for him. As his presentation came to its conclusion, Lee, with content and proud tears in his eyes, ended with a prayer he would say every morning as he drove to work: “There are families of stones under the ground. As the young stones grow, they rise slowly,...when they reach the surface, they’re old, and holy. And when they break open, they give off a rich odor, each blooming once in the light after centuries of waiting. Those who have lived here the longest and know best are the least conspicuous. The oldest mountains are the lowest, and the scorpion hides all day, beneath the broken stone. If I stay here long enough, I will learn the art of silence. After I have given up words, I will become what I have to say. Thanks for letting me come home.”

- By Emily Sexton


Audio Transcript


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