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Poems, Philosophy & Coffee

Alan Flurry

New UGA professor and department head of philosophy Aaron Meskin arrived on campus this summer from Leeds University. Meskin co-authored a new book, OPPOSITE: POEMS, PHILOSOPHY & COFFEE, an experiment in philosophy and poetry he explained in a recent article:

The British poet, Helen Mort, and I recently explored a novel way in which poetry and philosophy might be in dialogue. We put together a book, Opposite: Poems, Philosophy & Coffee, which is just about to be published by Valley Press, an independent publisher located in Scarborough, UK.

The core of the book comprises ten poems composed by Helen in response to her reading of ten recent essays in philosophical aesthetics which I suggested. The main criterion for selection was a suspicion that Helen would find the paper interesting. The philosophers (Jeanette BicknellEva DadlezAnne EatonJohn DyckCynthia FreelandSherri IrvinEileen JohnThi NguyenNick RiggleJon Robson, me) then briefly respond to Helen’s poems. An introduction explains the genesis of the work, and two codas reflect on the relationships between coffee, philosophy and poetry.

Topics addressed in the book include bad art, itches, meals, oversinging, portraits, rock climbing, street art, tastimony, tattoos and a song by Belle and Sebastian. We’re really excited by the way it turned out.

Why coffee? We hatched the plan for the bookshop in a local cafe conveniently located opposite the University of Leeds where we both worked when we met. The first poem that Helen wrote—the piece that gave us the idea for the project—was set in another of our favorite Leeds coffee places, and it responds to a co-authored paper of mine which addresses the epistemology of taste. And the whole project was based on the idea that the book might be like a cafe (or bar) conversation between a poet and a philosopher (or ten).

Proceeds from the book, featuring a terrific poet and a gaggle of contemporary philosophers, go to support a Leeds charity that addresses childhood hunger. The work is an excellent introduction to Meskin's perspective on philosophical aesthetics and a big reason why he is such a great new addition to the philosophy department, the college and the UGA campus. Welcome Dr. Meskin!

Image: Clive Head, “The Synaptical Cubist Orders for Two”

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