KSU’s Traveling Stanzas headed to Ellis Island

The Kent State University Wick Poetry Center’s “Traveling Stanzas” project, part of its effort to facilitate a global conversation that enhances person to person communication, arrives at the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration this fall.

On Nov. 10, KSU will host a reception for the exhibit, Sisters in Liberty: From Florence, Italy to New York, New York, created by the Opera di Santa Croce in Florence in collaboration with faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences who have pioneered unique visualization technologies and KSU’s Design Innovation Initiative. The Wick Poetry Center’s “Listening Wall” in the exhibit will give visitors the opportunity to creatively respond to historical documents, oral histories, and multimedia stories that center on the exhibit’s themes of liberty and personal freedom and how we experience them.

“We appreciate the support of our sponsors who are making this possible,” David Hassler, director of the Wick Poetry Center said. The Ellis Island exhibit is a step up in Wick’s effort to facilitate a global conversation through the intimate and inclusive voice of poetry.

Having started its “Traveling Stanzas” project 10 years ago, the Wick Poetry Center is making 2019 and 2020 special years. Earlier this year, the center issued, “Speak a Powerful Magic,” an anthology celebrating the 10 years. Published by The Kent State University Press in association with the Chautauqua Institution, this handsome hardback, glossy, 14-page volume presents curated poems with illustrations designed by students in KSU’s School of Visual Communication Design under the direction of Professor Valora Renicker. The poems were authored by a wide range of people: teachers, physicians, elders, immigrants, elementary school children, teenagers and others.

With KSU’s Florence campus, the Wick Center is also issuing a bilingual, glossy paperback book, “I Hear the World Sing.” Edited by David Hassler, Jessica Jewell and Stephanie Siciarz, the book will be published in September by The Kent State University Press in association with The Academy of American Poets and feature poems composed by children in Kent and Florence invited to express their thoughts about, “Where I Am From.” Students in KSU’s Italian translation program and KSU graduate student designer Zuzana Kubisova have helped create this volume.

Other mileposts in the 10th year?

With “Each + Every”, a Kent company staffed with graduates of the KSU School of Visual Communications, the Wick Poetry Center has built Makerspace rooms in which interactive poetry composition occurs. A Makerspace room has been set up on this year’s Chautauqua Institution campus.

Last June, during festivities celebrating the restoration of the Cuyahoga River to better health 50 years after its pollutants caught fire in Cleveland in 1969, a George Danhires relief sculpture was installed overlooking the Cuyahoga in Heritage Park near Kent’s West Main Street Bridge. One of the contents of the sculpture was a poem by Kora Mendez composed during the Wick Poetry center’s “River Stanzas” outreach workshops. To support a cleaner Cuyahoga River, the City of Kent has installed River Stanza banners around town encouraging people to participate in a Kent community poem by contributing their lines at www.river.travelingstanzas.com.

Sets of “River Stanzas” greeting cards illustrated by KSU’s School of Visual Communication Design, featuring poems by youngsters in area school and in the Wick Junior Summer Writing Camp, are being sold by the Conservancy for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the proceeds benefitting the Park.

Coming next year will be a Wick Center Global Community Poem for the 50-year anniversary of the Kent State May 4, 1970 shootings. Utilizing digital technology and the Internet, contributors will be invited to engage in a global conversation in poetry regarding the shootings and how to overcome violence and promote peaceful solutions.

Founded by the Wick family in 1984, the Wick Poetry Center, supported by the Knight Foundation, The Burbick Foundation, the Woodward Foundation and a host of generous partners, begs the question: Why poetry?

In a busy world, where daily pursuits may harden us to the big questions of life’s meaning and purpose, David Hassler says there is a need to, “pause and find a pocket of time to reset inside a stanza, a little room of a poem.” Poetry, he says, has regenerative powers that can, “build bridges between the familiar and the unfamiliar and be the means by which we come to know ourselves.”

Hassler wants to bring poetry into our lives, presenting it where we least expect it: “not merely in books we may never open, but displayed in outdoor murals, on outdoor kiosks, on mass transit trains and buses, on coffee shop and library walls, on greeting cards and using digital media in interactive websites that invite participation.”

Poetry that takes us back to the basics and lets us relate to one another on a deeper level can uplift the global conversation in a positive way. Amid all the angry and ugly rhetoric of the present, what a wonderful change that would be!


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POSTED: Sunday, August 4, 2019 - 12:01pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, January 14, 2020 - 1:53pm
David Dix