In my previous post, “Poetry for the Young (and the Young-Hearted)”, I promised you voices of our young poetry lovers.
First up is HoCoPoLitSo’s Student on Board Member, Katy Day. Katy is a student at University of Maryland, College Park who is studying English and Psychology. She has been a friend of HoCoPoLitSo’s since 2013. She made her Blackbird Poetry Festival debut in 2013. Billy Collins, who came to HCC to read at the 2014 Blackbird Poetry Festival, is an admirer of Katy’s poetry (as evidenced by the photo below). She is currently studying poetry with Stanley Plumly at College Park.
I asked Katy some questions to get her take on encountering poetry.
What do you get out of attending poetry and literary events?
All of my time studying literature and poetry hasn’t prepared me to fully articulate the degree to which attending poetry readings and other literary events have influenced my life. The first poetry reading I ever attended was the Blackbird Poetry Festival in 2013. I knew that I had discovered something great when I attended Blackbird that year. I felt like I belonged there and like I had finally found something that I really felt passionately about.
As a student and as a citizen of this world, what benefits do you see in reading and studying literature (especially poetry)?
Studying literature and poetry has expanded my mind. It has allowed me to discover who I am as a person by changing and building upon my thoughts and beliefs about the world.
What’s your favorite work of literature (a particular poem, poet, or novel maybe)?
I can’t choose a single favorite. I love poetry and literature for several different reasons and I think that different works of poetry and literature have enriched my life in different ways. I can read David Sedaris over and over again and still laugh until I’m crying and marvel over his perfected comedic timing. The more I learn about poetry and literature, the more particular my interests become also. I read Olive Schreiner’s Story of an African Farm and was blown away by not only the anticipation of modernist literature in the experimental style of her writing, but also by her progressiveness, which I think even surpasses many of our contemporary thinkers. Oscar Wilde has also greatly influenced the way in which I consciously navigate and perceive the world.
Do you have any thoughts on what literary organizations like HoCoPoLitSo can do to engage young people?
This is a tough question. It’s hard to get people of any age interested in poetry. Billy Collins says that high school gives people “anti-poetry deflector shields.” Any time poetry is encountered, the automatic response is to avoid it. Becoming interested in poetry is like opening a set of nesting dolls. You have to begin with poems that speak to non-poetry adherents. Then, like the nesting dolls that become smaller and smaller, your interests become more and more refined as you explore various kinds of poetry. I think these anti-poetry deflector shields come from teachers who forgo the big nesting dolls and instead present their students with poems that require the refined interest that comes with exposure and extensive study. I gained this perspective through my experiences at Howard Community College and through attending HoCoPoLitSo events. HoCoPoLitSo has done an exceptional job in the past few years bringing poets to Howard County who excite young people and act as gateways into poetry.
Here’s at least one awesome young person in whose hands we can trust the future of poetry in Howard County and beyond.
Member, HoCoPoLitSo Board of Directors