Poetry and picnic initiate house hand-off

The poetry house is back on campus for a third year. This year, the house members are women coming from many areas of study and backgrounds. Clair Dunlap ’15, Sweta Bhattacharya ’15, Cynthia J. Zapata ’16, Lisa Cole ’15, Tasha Viets-VanLear ’15, Olawunmi Faleti ’15 and Lexi Swenson ’16 are a diverse group of women with varying passions. It was important for them to collectively bring their interests together and incorporate them into this year’s poetry house.

Traditionally, the Poetry House has been occupied only by males. However, after working closely with last year’s Poetry House members, the campus poetry community decided that the house would be taken over by women this year to showcase more women in the arts.

The house hosts meetings on Thursday evenings, where all are encouraged to come and share or listen to poetry. More plans are in the works for future events such as a feminist poetry night, featured poets and open mic events.

On Friday, Sept. 22, the house members hosted their annual picnic. Students shared music and poetry, or simply listened, and the vibe in the room was infectious. Even some students who came and had not planned to share wrote their names on the sign-up sheet to recite an original piece or a favorite poem.

Each house member could cite the pivotal moment that drew her to poetry. Those moments ranged from hearing a poem like “Having a Coke with You” by Frank O’Hara for the first time and wanting to create something of their own that made them feel the same way, to experiencing the invigoration of performing.

For house residents, this year’s living situation is ideal; the women are inspired by friendship and creativity to achieve their house goals. Though their goals are slightly different this year, they were left with a good blueprint from previous house members to start their year. Most traditions will be upheld along with a few new additions meant to better fit this year’s particular mission statement.

“We’re focusing primarily on highlighting women in the arts, women of color especially,” Dunlap said. “We think that is lacking in general in the world.”

This year, the house members’ service project involves working with the youth of Northfield. They will be traveling into town to do workshops with female students interested in any sort of expressive writing.

“I think all of us really wanted to work with the female youth of Northfield,” Dunlap said. “We want to go and help these girls be creative and form bonds. There is so much girl-hate in high school and junior high, and that’s unfortunate. But if they can be creating together and sharing their stories, we feel that would be really empowering.”

Providing mentors and friends to these students will also give them an artistic outlet that they may not have otherwise considered. The house members know that poetry is scary at times. It is a completely intimate, unfiltered way of expressing oneself. But with the help of a mentor, it can be a little less frightening.

“A lot of people are just intimidated by poetry,” Zapata said. “I think that is also a part of our mission statement – to create a safe space and show that poetry really isn’t that scary. There is something really personal about it that’s incredibly different from writing prose or an essay. All of those come from a creative process, but poetry seems to be this language that is really human.”