Willard Spiegelman poem featured in new collection inspired by Thomas Jefferson

Book cover of 'Monticello in Mind'SMU’s campus centerpiece, Dallas Hall, has inspired a poem published alongside the works of Pulitzer Prize winners in the poetry anthology Monticello in Mind: Fifty Contemporary Poets on Jefferson (University of Virginia Press).

That’s Jefferson as in Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States.

What’s the connection between Dallas Hall and one of America’s founding fathers? It doesn’t take Nicolas Cage and a map hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independence to find out.

“When the founders of SMU went to Chicago to find an architect for their first building, they said they wanted Dallas Hall to look like The Rotunda at the University of Virginia (which was designed by Jefferson), but of course bigger,” says Willard Spiegelman, Hughes Professor of English in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

The author of the Dallas Hall-inspired poem explains, “My first thought was, ‘Jefferson went to the prairie.’”

The poem, titled Prairie Rotunda, is one of 50 poems featured in Monticello in Mind. An excerpt is below:

The Monticello ladies politely call him, still,

“Mister Jefferson,” spokesman for sanity.

And on north Texas plains, more arid

than his “little mountain” landscape, we too have

something of his legacy, in stone and Kansas brick.

— Kenny Ryan

> Visit SMU’s Department of English homepage: smu.edu/english