Princeton Arts Profiles

Spaghetti and Poetry: Thoughts on the Arts at Princeton

What I remember vividly— even more than the smell of spaghetti—is the spirit of community …

Long before the grand and glorious Lewis Center for the Arts came the humble Spaghetti and Poetry Night.  

It began spontaneously in 1974, my senior year, when a friend wanted to read aloud some poems she’d found inspiring. We gathered in the kitchen of Brown Hall, whipped up a supper of spaghetti and salad, and listened. So appealing was the combination of good words, good food, and good friends that these gatherings became a tradition every Wednesday night. Each week the audience swelled along with the number of spaghetti pots.   

Surrounded by friends and dirty dishes, we read aloud from a wide variety of poets. Some of us read our own creations; others shared longtime favorites. No matter if it was England’s Keats or India’s Kabīr, Emily Dickinson or Emily Bront., Pablo Neruda or Pushkin, Bashō or Browning, Alice Walker or William Wordsworth, doctrinal verses or Dr. Seuss—we celebrated it all.   

What I remember most from those nights isn’t the poetry itself. Nor who decided to read what lines. What I remember vividly— even more than the smell of spaghetti—is the spirit of community those gatherings fostered. We shared in the remarkable power of the arts to bring people together, a power that’s truly magical.   

Forty years later, as I enjoy the arts flourishing at Princeton, that power has only grown. It’s right there when the Tigerlilies or the Footnotes sing under Blair Arch, when a young voice gains confidence in the creative writing program, when people dance with exuberance or cry out in pain and longing from the dramatic stage. It’s found at every Triangle show, every music practice, every exhibition at the Art Museum, as well as every film screening, outdoor sculpture, and concert on campus.   

Princeton3_ThomasBarron_113I’m deeply proud of what Princeton is doing to nurture the arts. To make them an integral part of the Princeton experience. To expand the community of people who treasure them. Today, when I stroll around campus, the arts are everywhere.   

Maybe that’s why, at unexpected moments, I catch a faint but enduring scent on the air. I can’t quite describe the scent… but it reminds me, somehow, of spaghetti.  


“Make your life a truly great story”: a Princeton University Career Services Career & Life Vision conversation with T.A. Barron ’74:

Watch the full interview …