Last Sunday evening, in front of a packed crowd at Memorial Auditorium, Poet Laureate Steven Hirshfeld recited his latest critically-acclaimed work: an acrostic poem entitled “STEVEN.” After a 45-minute introduction by English professor Tobias Wolff, who told several witty anecdotes and dropped the names of many famous author friends, the legendary poet himself took the stage.
Hirshfeld began by reciting the poem’s masterful opening line: “S: Super.” After a long pause thick with meaning, he continued to the next two lines: “T: Terrific, E: Excellent,” drawing murmurs of appreciation from the audience. It felt like the entire auditorium was holding its breath as Hirshfeld stopped to take a sip of water before saying “V: Valuable, E: Extraordinary,” at which point the audience broke into an enthusiastic round of applause.
Once the cheers had quieted down, Hirshfeld took a long breath and shared the concluding line of his poem: “N: Never Dull.” This line in particular has received a great deal of praise from critics due to Hirshfeld’s unconventional use of a two-word phrase rather than a single word. The Stanford audience showed their appreciation for Hirshfeld’s innovation by giving him a long standing ovation.
Although Hirshfeld was only on stage for a short time, he made quite a lasting impression on many attendees. Christina Marsh ’13, for example, views Hirshfeld as a personal hero and says that his performance inspired her to start working on an acrostic poem based on her own name. “My name has a lot of letters in it, so writing an acrostic is a pretty daunting task,” she said, “but hearing Steven Hirshfeld in person really shows me that I can pick nine good words if I work hard enough.”