photo of Duncan Wu with dog Topsy
News Story

A Dog-Eared Book: Georgetown Professor Publishes Collection of Poems About Humanity’s Best Friend

The adage dogs are a man’s best friend is hardly a new sentiment. Duncan Wu, a professor in the Department of English, curated, edited and published Dog-Eared, a collection of poems by authors from different countries and time periods who wrote of their shared experiences with caring for dogs and the joys they bring. During a year that has seemed to be full of more challenges than triumphs, Wu says that we need dogs and poetry now more than ever. 

“Dogs are good for you mentally and emotionally,” says Wu. “Having a dog is like having a constant friend, but it’s the nicest friend you can ever have — they never say anything bad to or about you, and they often give the impression that they understand us on a deep level. Anyone who has ever owned a dog can relate to this book.”

A Dog’s Purpose

Cover of Dog-Eared by Duncan Wu

In 2011, Wu created the collection of poems So The Happy Fireside: Romantic Poems about Cats and Dogs for the Keats-Shelley Museum in Rome, of which Wu is a trustee. He enjoyed that the poets wrote of their love for dogs and the companionship they offered, and decided to expand this collection of canine-inspired poetry to a global scale. 

After reading works by a plethora of poets, Wu selected over 75 poems from authors like Gwendolyn Brooks, Emily Dickinson and Rudyard Kipling. Though the earliest written poem is from Homer’s The Odyssey, Wu said that many of those works featured in the collection are from the 20th century. 

He explains that since the 1900s was such a tumultuous period, many people needed the companionship of dogs to survive and feel fulfilled emotionally, which was a topic poets naturally wanted to explore. 

“The 21st century is arguably even more challenging than the 20th, particularly in this moment, so emotional support and those who provide it are important now more than ever,” says Wu. “That’s largely why I wanted to write this book. There is much fiction and nonfiction about dogs, but poetry, being more compressed, can deliver more effectively that emotional jolt I’m looking for. I want to read something about a dog and be moved to laugh or cry, and poetry is the medium through which emotion works most powerfully.” 

Homeward Bound

Wu carefully selected each poet in order to feature writings from all over the world, though he featured American poets prominently. He says that Dog-Eared “is a properly American book with an American perspective.”

Originally from England, Wu immigrated to the United States in 2008 to start his professorship at Georgetown and in 2013 he became an American citizen. He adopted his very own furry companion Topsy, a smooth fox terrier, that same year.

“I partly became an American because I was making an investment in the young people in America and I wanted that to be something that came from the heart and that I put my life fully into,” Wu says. “Adopting a dog was in line with the American values that I personally aligned with so much and she has been the greatest gift and friend. I frequently talk to my dog about romance poets and she will look back at me knowingly and it is these moments of being a dog owner, particularly an American dog owner, that is part of the shared human experience that I wanted to convey in this book.” 

Dog-Eared is available for purchase on October 27, 2020. 

-by Shelby Roller (G’19)