Monthly Archives: November 2014


FIT students are known for being driven, creative, and business-savvy. After an inspiring event last week, Hue is prepared to add one more attribute to the list: lovers of poetry.

Indeed, beginning foreign-language students read beautifully in a range of languages to a packed house at the 25th Annual Foreign Language Poetry Recitation Ceremony on November 13. No advanced students were permitted to enter, yet the winners read with precision and grace. It reminded us that the sound of poetry is beautiful even when we don’t understand the words.

Contest winner Daeyoung Yoo reads a poem in Chinese. Photos by Smiljana Peros.

Contest winner Daeyoung Yoo reads a poem in Chinese. Photos by Smiljana Peros.

Professor James Cascaito, chair of the Modern Languages and Cultures Department and a poet in his own right, started the competition a quarter-century ago because he loved reciting poetry as a student and hoped that the process would foster language appreciation in FIT students.

“If they have a deeper love for the language, they are more likely to continue on to the advanced levels,” he explained.

Tenor Neal Harrelson sang arias in between readings.

In between readings, tenor Neal Harrelson sang arias in Romance languages to entertain the crowd.

FIT offers numerous opportunities for winning prizes and scholarships, but this competition isn’t one of them. Students win a parchment certificate and a rose–and, if they’re lucky, a love of the foreign language they’re studying.

“People ask, ‘Why not give them a gift certificate?'” Cascaito said. “Absolutely not! I don’t want it connected to anything commercial. Students have to learn that there are certain honors that stand on their own. You win the distinction of being a scholar. And the students take very well to that lesson.”

The foreign-language students who won the poetry recitation competition.

Winners and runners-up of the Foreign Language Poetry Recitation Competition.


The concept is astonishingly simple and deliciously complex: a book about our relationship to clothes, as experienced by 642 women, including Lena Dunham, Cindy Sherman, Tavi Gevinson, and two FIT faculty members, Sara Freeman and Dale Megan Healey. In the hands of editors Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton, the result is Women in Clothes, a clever, surprising, encyclopedic portrait of beauty, insecurity, and family. And it reads like the most delicious issue of O magazine.

On October 23, the English and Speech Department invited Julavits and Shapton to read from and discuss the book. Julavits read about accompanying a smell scientist to the coatroom of a New York restaurant to judge the wearers of the coats. (“It’s a very nice scent,” the scientist said after sniffing the armpit of one coat. “I think she’s with the wrong guy.”) Shapton read a first-person account from a garment worker in Cambodia who sews bras too expensive for her to afford.

Women in Clothes

No detail of the book’s design was overlooked. Shapton wanted it to be softcover to be more welcoming. They didn’t want pictures of the women so that readers wouldn’t form judgments based on their looks. They wanted a gridlike design, broken up by images every few pages. They went back and forth about which cover to use.

Toward the end, someone asked them whether the book had made them more conscious about what they put on each morning. “I think, ‘What am I feeling inside, and how do I want to express that in some manner?’” Julavits said, then amended her answer slightly. “Today I’m wearing this book. That’s what you should be looking at to understand me, not what I’m wearing right now.”

Hue thinks she wears it well.

Leanne Shapton and Heidi Julavits discuss "Women on Clothes."

Leanne Shapton and Heidi Julavits discuss “Women in Clothes.”