Section: Arts

Poetry festival features student, faculty and alumni work

Poetry festival features student, faculty and alumni work

CAPTION: Students and faculty shared their work in the Horn Gallery. | BRITTANY LIN

This February, Kenyon Review (KR) associates and interns hosted a poetry festival that featured many talented writers at a variety of events throughout the week. The festival started on Feb. 22 and continued throughout the rest of the week until the last event on Sunday. Many who had the pleasure of attending the events got to hear readings from professors and from students who will have their work printed in student-run publications. 

This festival wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance of KR interns who helped plan and organize the events. Emma Johnson ’23 was one of the engagement interns and led the planning alongside Aaliyah Daniels ’23. Johnson wanted to plan a poetry festival because she believed it would provide Kenyon students with a great opportunity to share their writing, especially if they otherwise would not have been to do so. 

“There used to be a lit fest that the KR did, but it was more of a big thing in New York,” she said. “And [the fest] would come to do a reading in Gambier, but it was not heavily student focused, so I thought it would be cool to help with the program because there are so many students who come to Kenyon because they want to write.” Johnson had the idea to do the Poetry Festival and reached out to other interns to plan for the event. Johnson said that the festival wouldn’t have been possible without the help of associates like Flannery Strain ’23, Steph Chang ’25, Kat Ellis ’23 and Molly Fording ’23. 

The event kicked off with trivia at the Village Inn on Feb. 22, co-hosted by Persimmons, a student-run literary magazine. This was followed by “My Professor Writes Poetry?” on Feb. 23 where students and professors had the opportunity to share their poetry and prose pieces. Johnson was specifically excited about this faculty, staff and student poetry reading. She said that she knows of many professors at Kenyon who write, but there aren’t a lot of opportunities for faculty to read from their own creative work. Assistant Professor of English Travis Lau and Robert P. Hubbard Assistant Professor of Poetry Michael Leong both read their work at “My Professor Writes Poetry?” Johnson was excited by the unique opportunity this reading posed and hopes that in the future more spaces will open for faculty to share their writing. After the event, attendees scattered multiple poems across campus for students to read, and it was a pleasant surprise to find them in various locations.

One of the things I loved most about the Poetry Festival was how much heart and soul the writers put into reading their work aloud. While sitting in the audience on the afternoon of Feb. 23, I felt peaceful and transcended to a deeply captivating place. Dawsen Mercer ’26 participated in the open mic after the reading. Mercer has done many other open mics and was thrilled to have the opportunity to read another one of her poems. Like many other writers, Mercer tries to read for as many open mics as she can, and I enjoy hearing her every time.  

On Friday evening, alumni (and former Kenyon Review Associates) Tariq Thompson ’21 and Liv Kane ’22, as well as guests Richie Hofmann and Molly McCully Brown, appeared remotely to perform various readings at the Gund Gallery Community Foundation Theater in front of a live audience. The four authors’ readings were followed by a live Q&A. Both Brown and Hofmann are authors of their own poetry books. Hofmann’s new book of poems is titled A Hundred Lovers and Brown’s poetry collection is titled The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded.

The Acoustic Student Open Mic that was hosted on Saturday at the Horn Gallery was also very entertaining to watch. Students were able to get creative with their readings — I particularly enjoyed listening to one student play the guitar as they read their poem aloud. 

The final event of the festival was the “Preview Series: Sunset x Persimmons x HIKA.” At the reading, which took place Sunday at the Horn Gallery, writers who will have their work published in different publications this spring had the chance to read their forthcoming pieces for audience members. Johnson was excited that this and other events throughout the week brought different organizations together. “Bringing different student groups together and people who might otherwise not share their work is really fun,” Johnson said.  

Creating the Poetry Festival was no easy feat, and Johnson spent a lot of time planning and going over ideas to make it a reality.  “There has been a lot of trial and error in trying to do something like this, trying to reach out to different clubs, trying to get speakers to come, and it was a long process,” she said. Johnson has been working extremely hard to plan the event, and she said that leading and delegating were new experiences for her. 

Johnson hopes underclassmen will take up the festival so that it will happen again next year. It was an amazing experience to be a part of each poetry event that brought multiple talented writers together to share their work. 


Comments for this article have closed. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor for publication, please email us at