by Melanie Anderson
There is magic in poetry. It allows a person to share deep feelings of love, of pain, of joy. It celebrates the intricacies and simplicities of language and connects communities through the sharing of common experiences and emotions.
“Poetry has a unique ability to offer a safe and welcoming space in which to engage in deeper conversations with oneself, with others, and the larger world,” said David Hassler, director of Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center, which established Traveling Stanzas in 2009.
Through its interactive website, the Traveling Stanzas project provides this safe and welcoming space for poets of all ages and backgrounds. Visitors can browse through videos of spoken poetry in five different languages, sometimes with beautiful graphic design. Sometimes the poet explains the inspiration and meaning behind the work as well. Many languages, cultures and backgrounds find a platform to speak through the Traveling Stanzas website.
Wick received an arts grant from the Knight Foundation this past March and is continuing to expand. Future plans include poetry workshops, creating posters which combine poetry and graphic design to display in public places such as Akron METRO buses and outdoor kiosks in North Hill, and continued opportunities for people of all ages and languages to share their poetry through the interactive website. By January 2018, Wick plans to have established a digital traveling exhibit in order to share poetry with a wider range of people in a variety of settings, such as schools, hospitals and museums around Akron.
What’s unique about Traveling Stanzas is the way it connects people through poetry by combining one of the oldest forms of communication with modern technology. Traveling Stanzas works with the International Institute of Akron and with Akron Public Schools to open doors of communication for Akron’s large refugee and immigrant communities.
“I think the most exciting part of our project is how we are using poetry to give voice to a refugee population that often does not have a voice in the larger community, while also using poetry as a means by which they learn English and make meaningful, emotional connections with their newly acquired language skills,” Hassler said.
Hassler has strong hopes for the project’s impact in the community.
“I hope that our project will encourage the Akron community to celebrate its rich, diverse voices and participate in the joy of reading and creating poetry,” he said. “I also hope that the poems and videos will help people hear voices of ‘the other’ and give a human face and voice to the refugee population in the community as well as Akron Public School children.”
Check out Traveling Stanzas website at travelingstanzas.com/en/home.
Melanie is an aspiring writer and an English major for life. Having only lived in the Akron area for two years, she is excited to write for the Devil Strip and discover all that Akron has to offer.