Traveling Stanzas: poets share their stories

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Touched by Migration: Poetry Helps Give Refugees and Immigrants a Voice

A unique partnership is helping to spread the “word” about migration, literally. Powerful and inspiring words are ringing throughout 11 cities in the United States, as a result of Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center joining 22 other nonprofit poetry organizations to form a Poetry Coalition.

Together the coalition presented programs on the theme “Because We Come From Everything: Poetry & Migration.” The theme borrows a line from U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera’s poem, “Borderbus.”

This month, the Akron Art Museum will host a poetry reading and ribbon cutting on April 13, at 6:00 p.m. The event will celebrate the installation of new outdoor Traveling Stanzas kiosks featuring poems by refugee and immigrant community members of Akron, Ohio. Poems are presented on digital pages with illustrations created specifically for them by students and alumni of the Kent State University School of Visual Communication Design. This event is free and open to the public. 

Now, more than ever, the organizations believe that poetry has a positive role to play in the United States. It is through reading, writing, and discussing poems that the coalition hopes readers will learn about one another on the most human level, inspiring empathy, compassion, and greater understanding of one another. Poetry Coalition members believe that by collaborating on programs, they will spotlight the art form’s unique ability to spark dialogues, create opportunities to engage in meaningful conversation, discover unexpected connections with each other, and inspire new readers.

Throughout the month of March, the Wick Poetry Center presented programs and projects on the theme of migration. Each week the center presented a weekly interview with a participant in the ongoing Traveling Stanzas: Writing Across Borders project. 

The Traveling Stanzas kiosks, installed in Museum’s Bud and Susie Rogers Garden, will join the family of Traveling Stanzas designs in northeast Ohio and around the world. Visitors to the garden will be able to view the design, read the poem, and press an audio button to hear the voice of the child or adult poet. Individuals can also visit the kiosks digitally by accessing the Poetry Map.

Traveling Stanzas: Writing Across Borders is a project of the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University in collaboration with Visual Communication Design students and alumni. With major support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Wick Poetry Center works with Akron and Kent public schools, as well as refugee and immigrant populations locally and abroad.

Read more about the Traveling Stanzas from PBS NewsHour