Section: Arts

Annual spring poetry celebration returns to campus

Annual spring poetry celebration returns to campus

CALLAN SCHACKOR | Collegian

By Elana Spivack, Staff Writer

“Is that a poem in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

So reads one of The Kenyon Review’s buttons advertising its annual Poem In Your Pocket Day, a holiday that the prestigious magazine has formally celebrated since 2008. On Tuesday, April 22, the literary ninjas of The Kenyon Review — its student associates — rose at dawn and silently transformed Middle Path into a poetry oasis, pinning copies of poems, free for the taking, to lines of twine.

The holiday began in New York in 2002, and the Academy of American Poets instituted it as a national event in 2008. Every year since then, The Kenyon Review has blanketed campus with poetry and brought in a poet for a reading. This year, Martha Collins read in Finn House’s Cheever Room on Tuesday.

Erich Slimak ’15 the intern in charge of social events for The Kenyon Review and has largely coordinated the event this year by organizing associates meetings to prepare for the celebration. He was unable to be reached for comment.

For those unable to form a thesis about a Whitman poem or analyze T.S. Eliot, the Review’s Programs Director Anna Duke Reach assuages those concerns. Poem in Your Pocket Day is “more about passion than purpose” she said. “We want it to be about love of the word and sharing words, … which is so much a part of [Kenyon’s] culture,” she said.

The Review’s Associate Director of Programs Tory Weber said, “I think it’s an amazing opportunity to get everyone involved in engaging in poetry in a really easy, fun way. I think … poetry is seen as something that’s intimidating, and you study it in your English class and you hope you’re thinking and saying smart things about a poem. On Poem In Your Pocket Day, it’s about … somebody seeing a poem fluttering in the breeze and picking it up and sharing it with their friends.”

The Review’s hope for this literary holiday is to extend poetry to all students. “I think what we do well here at Kenyon is get everyone involved and try to drum up a lot of excitement about all sorts of events and Poem In Your Pocket Day is no exception,” Weber added.

The day embraces the romantic side of literature, leaving the dry analysis to English classes. Public poetry allows for passing students on Middle Path to form meaningful, instant connections with literature.

“I love the spontaneity of it, that people just stop to read a poem and then grab one they feel like they can call their own and then read that to others,” Reach said. “I feel that I’ve gotten to know some people for the first time based on the poem they choose.”

The mentality of poetry in the classroom trends toward constant, deep analysis, whereas this day is specifically for making art accessible to the public. “There’s a national declaration … just to get poetry out there,” Reach said. “I think educators have been more test-oriented. … The essay has sort of taken over the prime spot of English classes and poetry … gets pushed to the sidelines.”

While the national holiday could be seen as taking a stance against traditionally-taught poetry, on the Kenyon campus it seems to do a world of good for students. During the end-of-year crunch, as everyone prepares for finals, the combination of poetry on paper and stunning weather can briefly jolt students from their stressful stupor.

Poem In Your Pocket Day also offers the opportunity to make connections beyond paper and lyric. While that crucial initial connection between the reader and the poet sets the celebration in motion, students may end up sharing their favorite newfound poems with each other. If not that, they at least can receive 20-percent off on all poetry books at the Bookstore if they read a poem aloud at the cash register.

Students rushing up and down Middle Path, they may not have sufficient time to savor each individual poem, but the prominent change in scenery certainly provides stimulation. “There’s a lot of drama to walking down Middle Path and seeing hundreds of poems blowing in the breeze,” Weber said.

This day celebrating poetry offers students dozens of poems. Reach said, “It’s just sort of a poetry holiday. It’s like going out and picking wildflowers in the woods.” Even just pocketing one poem gives a student something to hold on to for the rest of the day and beyond.

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