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For a school rich in poetry, now an endowed professorship

A Google search for “Yale” and “poetry” produces an array of results: free online video of English professor Langdon Hammer ’80, ’89PhD, teaching his Modern Poetry course. The Yale Series of Younger Poets competition run by Yale University Press, with accompanying anthologies. News articles about professor Elizabeth Alexander ’84 reading at Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration. A working group in contemporary poetry. Poetry by medical students.

But until last week, you wouldn’t find an endowed faculty position for the teaching of poetry.

Frederick Iseman ’74 has fixed that.

The founder of a private equity firm, he marked his 40th reunion by establishing the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry Fund, a $3 million endowment that will “support a recognized living poet or a scholar who teaches poetry or dramatic poetry of any era,” according to a Yale release. “Those appointed,” it adds, “may teach poetry in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, ancient Greek, or Latin.”

The donation will fund an existing faculty position, rather than creating a new slot. Yale has not announced who will hold the Iseman chair.

A former English major, Iseman says that “having a great poet like Penn Warren, W.H. Auden, Robert Graves, or Seamus Heaney in residence can galvanize a campus.

“This professorship is very broad,” he continues: “it can cover the work of Chaucer, Dante, Catullus, and Aeschylus, all the way to Akhmatova, Rilke, Lorca, and Beckett.”


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under poetry, Frederick Iseman, Elizabeth Alexander, Langdon Hammer
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