An unlikely but engaging poetic tour of Midwestern colleges and universities.
If your best years were the ones you spent at the University of Wisconsin, Ferris State or Purdue, you’ll love Aidoo’s love letter to college life in the middle of the United States, where campus activity fuels the civic scene in a way that it doesn’t on the coasts. In this collection, he devotes one poem to each of 100 institutions of higher learning from several different states. Some of them readers will know: Ohio State, Notre Dame; some they probably won’t, such as Emporia State University in Kansas, but each one gets a voice. Readers familiar with these stomping grounds will get more out of his frequent references to regional landmarks, such as Milwaukee’s Bradley Center; the “M” on the Diag in Ann Arbor, Michigan; or Shakespeare’s Pub in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The local color shows that the author has done his research, but this collection is adventurous not only in its content, but also in its style, as Aidoo experiments with a variety of delightfully unexpected poetic forms. His paean to Eastern Michigan University opens with the energy of a stadium cheer: “SWOOP DOWN! / SWOOP DOWN!” “Ball State” plays cleverly with the monosyllables in that university’s name: “We Party Hard— / This Ball State. / Ball Hard— / Party Late.” The Northwestern University poem features some playful appropriation of found verse, artfully taken from “the Rock,” on which students spray-paint slogans. Only occasionally does the poetry lapse into language that sounds like it’s cut and pasted from a university admissions pamphlet; for example, while singing the glories of the University of Illinois-Chicago, the author writes, “Our oncologists excel in cell research, / We nurse professionals in physics and pharmacy, / UIC leads Illinois in the health care birch, / A Medical Museum of the Science Industry.” Readers may not nominate Aidoo for a Pulitzer, but they may want to check out UIC’s microbiology program.
A thoroughly unique poetry project.