Section: Arts

Artist Profile: Virginia Kane and activism through poetry

Artist Profile: Virginia Kane and activism through poetry

Virginia Kane ’22 has always been driven to follow her passions. As we discussed her poetry outside of Wiggin Street Coffee on a sunny Friday afternoon, she reflected on the “writer’s workshops” she had in kindergarten. Of course, Kane didn’t always know that she wanted to specialize in poetry, writing in a wide variety of styles throughout her academic career. “My high school had one creative writing class it offered and it got canceled … so poetry was really something that I had to seek out on my own,” Kane said.

Once she decided to focus on poetry, Kane became hooked, attending spoken word events, watching video performances and even participating in the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop during the summer. At the program, she met established writers who inspired her to pursue writing as a career. Kane remains thankful for Kenyon and the program because “there are so many spaces here that allow for expression of the written word.”

Writers today have many pressing social and political issues to discuss, but Kane was inspired immediately by the climate crisis, saying that she writes about “climate change but normally intertwined with other issues … I think a lot about how we treat the earth and the natural environment as representative for how other things can decay or be destroyed.” Kane’s settings for her poems tend to be more personal. “A lot of people think you have to talk about the broad to be relatable … but to actually make it more relatable I think you have to talk about the more personal,” she said. Kane then referenced a poem she wrote titled “perennials,” where she connects climate change to her father’s garden: “i was eight in the living room when an iceberg / the size of Connecticut broke off the Antarctic Ice Shelf / as i cried my parents insisted they would not be playing / cards right now if they thought the Earth was dying.”

Last spring, Kane published a book of poetry—often referred to as a chapbook—titled “If Organic Deodorant Was Made for Dancing,” through the newly created student-run Sunset Press. Through this draining but rewarding project, Kane had her first professional experience with publishing and learned how to open up about personal subjects. “It was valuable enough to me that I was willing to have hard conversations and be open about the things we don’t talk about in many parts of our culture,” she said.

Kane’s writing process is anything but organized, as she is often inspired by random observations throughout her day. Eventually, all of these small observations will coalesce into a piece. She stressed the importance of setting aside at least a few minutes every day to work on her poems. Currently, writing a little every day is her main goal as she tackles classes in the Department of Creative Writing, though she notes that, for many people, it is a privilege to have even a little time every day. Despite being kept busy by her studies, Kane is still planning poetry readings at Kenyon and in the surrounding community, primarily focusing on redefining female beauty and body standards.

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