"Dear Vaccine" Features Poetry, Presidents and Passion
Kent State University President Todd Diacon and others shared poems written for the recent publication “Dear Vaccine: Global Voices Speak to the Pandemic,” at the book’s release party this spring.
Among the many other poems influenced by the events of the last two years, Diacon’s contribution described the COVID-19 vaccine as a short, sharp pain after a year of dull ache. His poem is part of a much larger, global community poem that highlights different viewpoints on the world-wide pandemic.
The book, published in April by Kent State University Press, invited poets from 118 different countries to share their experiences of the pandemic and vaccination through poetry. The release event aimed to promote the book and highlight certain contributors, like President Diacon.
“After quarantine, we probably all said a million times ‘I will always do this from now on’ or, ‘I will always appreciate this from now on,’” Diacon said during his remarks. “But then things change, and you change, so it's good to read this collection because it reminds us of those moments, commitments and thoughts that we had running through our minds.”
Diacon’s poem was one of more than 2,000 submissions. The selection process was facilitated through a collaboration by the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State and the University of Arizona Poetry Center. David Hassler, director of the Wick Poetry Center, introduced President Diacon and discussed the importance of this publication and the poets who contributed.
“They come up with their own creative reflection and response to what this pandemic has meant to their lives,” Hassler said. “What they hope to take, how they hope to get beyond it, what they've lost and how they can make sense and make meaning of this collective experience.”
Hassler was joined at the event by another of the book’s editors, Tyler Meier, director of the University of Arizona Poetry Center. The two addressed the profound and critical role poetry plays amidst the challenges of the pandemic, and concluded that medical advances alone are not the only solution to the issue.
“We thought, how can we leverage the arts and culture from our communities to support the push to help vaccinate as many people as possible?” Meier said. “And I thought about this. What could poetry do? It's an art form that we love.”
The poems were inspired by a poem written by the third editor of the book, Naomi Shahib Nye, a Young People’s Poet Laureate and acclaimed poet. The book was inspired by her global advocacy for the power of poetry and featured an introduction she wrote highlighting the human dimensions found across the poetry responses.
“Dear Vaccine” has been featured in PBS NewsHour, USA Today and many other media outlets across Ohio and Arizona. The publication was made possible with additional support from the Offices of the President and Provost at the University of Arizona and the Kent State University College of Arts and Sciences.
For more information on the Dear Vaccine book, please visit www.kentstateuniversitypress.com/2021/dear-vaccine/.