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Traveling Stanzas are on the move

Posted Mar. 15, 2010

(This article first appeared in the March 15, 2010, issue of e-Inside.)

The next time you ride a Portage Area Regional Transit Authority (PARTA) or Akron METRO bus, look up, and you may see – to your surprise – a beautiful poetry poster! The Traveling Stanzas ™ community arts project is going far to gain regional, national and international attention for Kent State University.

A unique, community arts project between the Wick Poetry Center and Glyphix design studio, Traveling Stanzas was first conceived and implemented in the spring of 2009 when Valora Renicker, director of Kent State’s award-winning student design studio, Glyphix, approached me to invite Wick Outreach to join her in this community project that places visually appealing poetry posters in area transit systems. Combining the creative talents of visual communication design students with original poems created in Wick writing workshops with area students (grades 3-12), veterans and senior adults, Traveling Stanzas promotes awareness and appreciation of poetry and graphic design within the community. While previous national projects (most notably Poetry in Motion,®) have placed poetry by established poets in the transit systems of American cities, our Traveling Stanzas promotes the voices of area student writers and employs university student designers, making the program distinctly unique — like no other in the country.

The program, which will enter its third season this fall, hinges on a series of themed writing workshops, led by the Wick outreach staff and Kent State students and designed to meet a specific community issue, concern or need. Ten to 20 poems are then selected by our staff and given to the Glyphix student designers, who create corresponding graphic designs for them. Each writing workshop concludes with a public reading in an appropriate venue (for example, a school, hospital unit, veterans facility, public library or senior center). In addition, all workshop participants are invited to share their work on campus in the Wick Poetry Center’s annual Giving Voice performance on May 5 at 6 p.m. in the Kent Student Center Ballroom.

This year, with funding from the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence at Case Western Reserve University , The Burbick Foundation, Kent State University Libraries and generous in-kind support from Oliver Printing Company, we selected the theme of peace and reconciliation to guide our outreach efforts. As the second edition of Traveling Stanzas, Peace Stanzas were created in recognition of the 40th commemoration of the events surrounding May 4, 1970, and in response to the many issues of veterans returning from present conflicts. Full-sized posters and blank greeting cards of the designs are also on display in area businesses, libraries and classrooms, and are available to be viewed or purchased at our Web site, www.travelingstanzas.com .

This spring semester, Glyphix student designers are currently developing animated Peace Stanza e-greetings with audio recordings of the student readers and music. Distribut­ed from the Traveling Stanzas Web site at no charge, these animated e-greetings will be easily shared with others anywhere in the world. For this final Web-based phase of the project, we are particularly pleased to have received official sponsorship from The Poetry Foundation in Chicago. In addition, Kent State Teleproductions is creating a short multimedia video production from the printed designs, which we’ll share in classrooms and at conferences.

Currently, our Traveling Stanzas program is now being marketed nationally by Kent State’s new student-run marketing agency, the Tannery . And our major sponsor, the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence at Case Western Reserve University, will feature the project at their 2010 International Peace and War Summit in October in Cleveland.

The Wick Poetry Center’s outreach effort, in collaboration with the talented Glyphix design studio, has been a transformative experience for both the university and for many community members and organizations. Kent State students will continue to play an active role as we engage others — regionally, nationally, and internationally — in this unique, community arts-based project that highlights the creative excellence at Kent State and throughout our region.

We have high hopes that Traveling Stanzas will travel far in promoting the creative voices of our region and spreading the words and images of peace in aesthetically appealing formats to a worldwide audience.

Wishing you peace and poetry,

David Hassler
Director, Wick Poetry Center 

Media contact: Jennifer Kramer, 330-672-1960, jlkramer@kent.edu