Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis unveils the Distinguished Professor Portrait of Mark Halliday.

Photographer: Wayne Thomas


Halliday discussed the appeal of short poems.

Photographer: Wayne Thomas


Halliday shared his interpretations of several poems about insomnia.

Photographer: Wayne Thomas

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Distinguished Professor finds appeal of short poems

On Thursday, Ohio University 2011 Distinguished Professor Mark Halliday delivered his Distinguished Professor Lecture in the Margaret M. Walter Hall Rotunda.

After the opening reception, Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis welcomed the audience and congratulated Halliday on earning the prestigious honor.

"This is just one way we recognize faculty members who reflect our highest levels of excellence," said McDavis before unveiling the Distinguished Professor portrait.

Halliday's portrait will hang with his peers' outside of the Faculty Commons on the third floor of Alden Library.

Distinguished Professor Charles Smith, named in 2010, took to the podium to introduce Halliday. He shared that early during his tenure in Athens, he attended a Halliday poetry reading at the Dairy Barn that helped deepen his roots in the Ohio University community.

"Each time I was uncertain where I was, I knew I was in the right place when I saw Mark," said Smith.

After being named a Distinguished Professor, Smith said he was unfamiliar with the fanfare and circumstance that attended the honor, "but now that Mark is here, I know that I am in the right place."

Halliday's lecture, "The Personal Appeal of the Short Poem," was accompanied by two poem-filled handouts that expounded on insomnia on one and self-advice on the other.

He shared that while he has probably read more than one hundred thousand short poems, poems of five pages or less, he still finds them among the most rewarding to read.

This is in part because, "A short poem is the size of a person," he said. "You come face to face with the vitality of a person."

Halliday spoke fondly about the immediacy and perceived arrogance of poems, especially short poems.

"Poems don't want to be seen as one more chapter or a footnote in human feelings," he said. "A poem says, 'I am here now.'"

He discussed that much can be said with such a distilled verbal medium. After reading several varied poems on insomnia and giving an overview of the self-advice poems provided, Halliday explained one of his reasons for enjoying short poetry.

"To read any of these poems on the right day is so like talking to a trusted friend," he said.

After the lecture, Halliday took questions from the audience, including a request for a reading of his own work.