Thursday, April 9, 2015

Geography Professor Paints Landscapes in Poetry

"River" wordmap by Howard Horowitz

By Brianna Farulla
Learning of environmental issues can be a bit frightening and even discouraging at times. Eventually, it begins to feel as if the world and our bodies are deteriorating due to the toxins that we’re surrounded with. At first, I assumed that Professor Howard Horowitz was going to provide us with more negative facts followed by an addition of substances that we’re unaware of that are taking years off of our lives. His opening speech about Diquat, the herbicide, nearly confirmed that thought for me. However, I was surprisingly proven wrong.

I walked away from Horowitz’s presentation to our Environmental Writing class feeling good, rather than worrisome about what I’d consumed throughout the day. After he got the serious topics out of the way, he decided to share his passion of poetry with us. Most of his students are under the impression that he’s a typical science professor, but don’t know that he has a way with words. I was impressed to discover that he even has a book published consisting of a compilation of tree planting poems that had sold out at the time. I see trees everyday and take how they got where they currently stand for granted. At one point in time, men had gone around planting the trees that we admire today. Therefore, hearing their stories and learning of what was happening while they were doing so from a firsthand perspective is rather interesting.

What I was most impressed by was Horowitz’s ideal style of poetry, which is writing in a map format. His finished pieces seemed to be his most prized possessions, which shows the amount of time and effort that was put into each one. The amount of intricacy and thought behind the maps amazed me. What’s even better is that most of the ideas came to him on a whim while in the shower or even in the middle of the night. He really paints a grand scene with his words and goes into detail about each area. He did well enough to get featured in The New York Times.

After hearing of all the turmoil that the world is in, it’s often difficult to keep a positive outlook on aspects of the environment. I begin to think of paint sludge when I hear of water and of chemicals when I think of air. However, Horowitz was able to reinforce my old love for the planet. He made me remember wildlife, streams, etc. I began to picture the environment, not as a terrible place any longer, but as a sanctuary. I recalled how I can sit at the Ramapo Reservation for hours and get lost in the natural charm of the great outdoors and everything that it consists of. Horowitz reminded me that Earth really is a beautiful place after all.

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