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We asked Howard Community College student Katy Day for her perspective of poetry on campus. Take a look at what she delighted us with:
As I scurried through the halls of Duncan Hall at Howard Community College, on my way to Introduction to Creative Writing, I ignored the framed student poetry scattered throughout its walls, all the way up to class. After all, how good could a student’s poem be, especially to someone like me who didn’t even like poetry?
In class, I was already envisioning my name sprawled across a half dozen book covers in large font as my professor, Ryna May, informed the class that we would all be required to submit a piece of our writing to the school’s literary and arts magazine, The Muse.
I loved my Creative Writing class even more than I had anticipated. Each week I put more hours of work into my short stories than I did for any of my other three classes. Combined. I dreaded, however, the two weeks Professor May had dedicated to poetry. How would I be able to get through two entire weeks without writing a single story? More importantly, how would I be able to write poetry if I couldn’t even understand it?
I don’t think I was the only person in the class with these concerns and Professor May was already on top of that. She gave us all copies of the previous edition of The Muse and asked us to find a poem that we liked. I read through all of them and was shocked by how much I actually liked some of them. I realized it wasn’t that couldn’t understand poetry; I just hadn’t come into contact with it at any point during my adult life. I was blown away by the seemingly endless possibilities offered by a single page of words. I didn’t have a favorite. I had a list.
May showed us videos of current poets like Billy Collins and Taylor Mali; genius on her part. I will never be able to thank her enough for that. She sat back as we watched, casting her line out into the sea of non-poetry believers and patiently waited. She didn’t give us an opportunity to ignore poetry. She captivated us through sight, sound and pleasure as we all soaked in these universal, current poets. So this is what poetry is today, I thought. By the end of the videos, we were all swarming around the bait, snapping wildly at it. She had us hooked.
Of course, once the door to poetry is opened, there are endless other doors and hallways to get lost in. Like a mouse venturing through the walls of an old colonial house for the first time, many paths in poetry can lead to a dead end. People are easily scared off by it, but May was always there, pointing us in a promising direction.
At the end of the course, she encouraged me to submit my work to The Muse. After waiting three excruciatingly long months, I finally heard that they’d be publishing one of my short stories and one of my poems. I was ecstatic.
Professor May also invited me to read a poem at the Blackbird Poetry Festival, an event organized by both Howard Community College and HoCoPoLitSo. At the festival, I knew that a lot of students were being exposed to poetry in their adult lives for the first time, and I loved being a part of that. I was nervous, of course. Who wouldn’t be nervous doing their first poetry reading in front of their teachers, classmates, their mother, and RIVES, who was front and center, chanting my name as I walked to the podium.
Despite the fact that I was trembling with fear on the inside, I made it through the reading and was immediately praised by Tim Singleton, Board Co-Chair of HoCoPoLitSo, who announced after my performance that he liked it so much he would have liked to hear it twice. Professor May said I did great and assured me that I didn’t look nervous at all. One student told me after the event that my poem was his favorite. Rives even said that he loved my poem and I had excellent stage presence. Reading my poetry was like a rollercoaster ride. I was scared out of my mind but so high off of the adrenaline afterwards that I couldn’t wait to do it again.
Luckily I didn’t have to wait long because The Muse reading was only a couple of weeks later. That was a whole different experience of elation, as I picked up the first publication that contained my own work. I can’t express how lovely instructing the audience to turn to page 47 in their book to find MY POEM felt.
Howard Community College didn’t just introduce me to poetry. It provided me with all of the assurance and reassurance I needed as a writer. It gave me door-opening experiences that have fueled me to continue my journey as a poet. The dedicated and passionate English Literature professors gave me an outstanding jumpstart into poetry. Now when I’m strolling around in Duncan Hall and I come to a framed poem on the wall, I take a few moments to read it, and I’m always pleasantly surprised.
The Blackbird Poetry Festival Presents Poetry Seen, Celebrating Poetry and the Visual Arts — Tuesday, April 23rd
This Tuesday, the 2013 Blackbird Poetry Festival invites you to be a part of Poetry Seen, exploring the intersections of poetry and the visual arts. The day-long festival on the campus of Howard Community College features writers Rives, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, and Kendra Kopelke in readings and workshops through the afternoon, the return of the Poetry Police, as well as readings by faculty and students. The festival concludes with the evening Nightbird event where Rives and Rachel Eliza Griffiths will be joined by music group Rocket Sled in a coffeehouse-style reading (see below for details).
Rives: A performance poet, storyteller and frequent speaker at TED Talks, Rives has also appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and was the co-host of Tommy Hilfiger’s Ironic Iconic America, a Bravo TV series on pop culture.
Rachel Eliza Griffiths: a poet and photographer who was awarded the 2012 Inaugural Poetry Award by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association for her most recent poetry book, Mule & Pear. In 2011, Oprah’s O Magazine featured Griffiths as an emerging poet in its first poetry issue. Griffiths’ photographs will be on display during the Blackbird Festival.
Kendra Kopelke: widely acclaimed poet and powerful voice on the Baltimore literary scene was named 2001’s “Best Poet” by BaltimoreMagazine and is the author of many books of poetry, including Hopper’s Women (inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper).
Rocket Sled: an alternative country-rock music duo with Ed Tetreault, the engineer for several Grammy-nominated releases, and musician and Baltimore music promoter Will Hill.
|10:00AM||Poetry Police start to patrol HCC campus looking for National Poem in Your Pocket Day violations|
|11:00–12:20PM||Rachel Eliza Griffiths meets with HCC’s student writers (closed)|
|11:00-12:20PM (Burrill Galleria)||Rives meets with students and community (open and free)|
DH-100 (Kittleman Room)
|Main Stage Reading in Duncan Hall (Kittleman Room 100): Kendra Kopelke, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, and Rives along with regional poets, HCC students, and faculty (open and free)|
DH-100 (Kittleman Room)
|Nightbird Reading with Rives and Rachel Eliza Griffiths and a performance by musical group Rocket Sled.
Tickets: $15, $10 for seniors and for students with an id. Purchase tickets online or at the door.
The Nightbird: a coffee house reading with poets Rives and Rachel Eliza Griffiths and music by country-rock music duo Rocket Sled, on Tuesday, April 23, 2013, at 7:30 p.m. in the Kittleman Room of Duncan Hall on the campus of Howard Community College. The theme of this year’s Blackbird Festival is “Poetry Seen,” exploring the intersections of poetry and the visual arts.
Audience members will be seated at tables during the Nightbird reading; coffee and tea will be served. Books will be sold, and authors will be available for signings. Tickets are general admission – cost $15 ($10 for students and seniors). Tickets will be available at the door or online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/353577.
All events are at Howard Community College, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, MD 21044; Parking available in Lot A & West Parking Garage.