With verses that channeled the voices of butterfly-watchers, rugby players, and T.S. Eliot, poet Richard Berengarten graced Moulton Union on Tuesday with a performance showcasing his diverse work.

The Cambridge-based poet was introduced by Bowdoin Writer-in-Residence Anthony Walton, who took creative writing courses under Berengarten at Notre Dame. In his introduction, Walton spoke of his former teacher's changing ideas about himself and his poetry, saying that Berengarten had become not just a European poet, but an international poet who speaks to many different nations and peoples.

Berengarten's reading proved to be a display of his adaptability and near-universal relevance as a poet. He introduced an interesting recurrent image with his first selection, "The Blue Butterfly," the title poem of his Wingate Award-winning 2006 collection. Berengarten said he had been inspired by a trip he and his daughter took to Kragujevac, Serbia. During World War II, the city was the site of a German massacre of at least 2,300 men and boys. While in line with his daughter for the museum dedicated to the massacre, a blue butterfly "came down from the sky," as Berengarten puts it, and landed on his finger. When he moved to take a picture, the butterfly flew in the air and then alit on his finger again. When the writer returned home, "a poem came out," the spontaneity a far cry from his usual method of careful drafting. "The Blue Butterfly" uses the titular creature as a stand-in for the men and boys who died in the Kragujevac massacre, juxtaposing the horror of their deaths and the slaughter that arises from war with his current situation as the narrator of the work.

Shortly after composing "The Blue Butterfly," Berengarten wrote a second poem that dealt with the same subject. Entitled "Nada: Hope or Nothing" ("nada" being both the Croatian word for "hope" and the Spanish word for "nothing"), the work compares the butterfly to—among other things—"an angel bearing a gift." The creature is also described writing the word "hope" in several different languages on the narrator's hand before concluding with the German "hoffen." The poet described the appearance of the butterfly as representative of a "Jungian synchronicity" given how his narrator's internal state is mirrored in a chance external object.

Berengarten's other poems further demonstrated his familiarity with a wide variety of cultures, perspectives and attitudes. He read odes that intoned different multinational poets, elegies that exhorted the reader for an end to cruelty, sonnets that lamented children's deaths around the world, and ballads that offered keen insight into the lives of hippies.

He also offered a thought-provoking take on the difficulties of presenting oneself authentically.

"Tonight, I've presented a particular version of myself to you, but that's absolutely inevitable," he said.

Students who attended the event commented afterwards on Berengarten's presentation.

Judah Isseroff '13, found the reading fascinating in comparison to other poetry readings he had attended. "This was the first time I'd been exposed to a kind of poetry that almost resembled a type of theatrical performance," he said.

Mario Jaime '14 added, "He had a very emphatic reading style. He would get into the character of the voice he was reading. He would speak more softly when reading a woman's speech, or he would speak more roughly and change his accent in order to speak like a rugby coach. It was fun to watch him get into the character of the poem itself."

A quote from Theodore Roethke's "The Waking" that Berengarten offered shortly following his reading that eloquently encapsulated his work: "I learn by going where I have to go."

His reading was sponsored by "From the Fishouse," an audio poetry archive founded by Bowdoin Magazine Associate Editor Matt O'Donnell; the Creative Writing Program; and the Bowdoin College Alpha Delta Phi Society Literary Fund.