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Poetry as Public Peace Offering in UNC’s Pit

Photo by Maris Ava Cruz | The Daily Tar Heel
Ben Goldman, a former UNC student, reads poetry in the Pit on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Goldman is pictured here reading works by Billy Collins.

On the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill is a sunken courtyard known affectionately as “The Pit.” A public ampitheatre of sorts, The Pit is used for impromptu performances, speeches, and more. Student organizations post notices on The Cube nearby.

“Legend has it that you will see all of Carolina’s 30,000 students pass through The Pit within 24 hours,” offers UNC’s website.

Now, the Pit is being used as a megaphone by a young literary citizen named Ben Goldman, aka “The Pit Poet.”

A recent profile in The Daily Tarheel noted the Pit Poet began reading poetry publicly in the spring of 2020. Most people walked past as he read; some, including his future girlfriend, stopped to listen. But according to him, his goal was not to be heard, but rather to offer something positive to the cosmos in an arena where he’s seen men preaching “very hateful things.” He wanted to turn that hate to love.

“I think people move too fast and don’t spend time looking at simple things,” Goldman said. “I’d like to be a simple thing and be loud enough to hopefully grab people’s attention for a second.”

The Pit Poet has built a community of sorts, as other readers join him from time to time. Besides the philanthropic angle, they’ve found that reading poetry has helped them gain confidence in everyday life and be more accepting, in general. Plus, it’s a pretty non-threatening way to introduce poetry to people who might otherwise find the genre “daunting.”

“I really just want people to be more fearless in what they enjoy,” Goldman said. “I want people to not be afraid to paint their face.”

For the full feature in The Daily Tarheel, click here.