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   Volume III, Issue 5
May 2007   

"Open mic" poetry reading by students and faculty: Celebrating National Poetry Month

Poetry has the “power to bring people together,” said Dr. Lisa Sewell, English department, as she opened Villanova University’s second annual “open mic” poetry reading, sponsored by the English department and Falvey Memorial Library. Her audience of Villanova students, faculty and staff, who gathered to listen to poets from the University community, illustrated her point. Moments later, as poets shared their work, passersby stopped and then joined the audience.

Dr. Sewell, standing in front of a One Book Villanova banner in Falvey's first floor lounge, read a poem to acknowledge the recent Virginia Tech tragedy. She then shared a poem of her own about humpback whales. This poem not only showcased her remarkable skill with the written word, but also her talent for presenting a familiar subject in a fresh and original way.

Dr. Sewell added that this event “recognizes the creative expression” of students, as she introduced the first student poet.

Senior Jonathan Veit strode to the microphone to offer two "true story" poems, and his voice grew strong as he read his work. His poem, “Last Day in Chile,” described in vivid detail his experience living in that country. It also highlighted similarities between Chileans and Americans.

Senior Will Sheridan then took his turn, reading two original poems. Appearing comfortable in front of the audience, Sheridan delivered his works, performing them, using gestures and dramatizing his voice to emphasize an idea or a rhyme. His poem about education marked similarities and differences among students from various backgrounds, ideas with which audience members could easily identify.

Dr. Emily Wittman, a Barbieri Fellow in the Center for Liberal Education, took the microphone next. One of her poems described a visit to a dog park as told from the dog’s point of view. The audience clearly enjoyed her humorous observations. Dr. Wittman’s poem also illustrated what had, coincidentally, become a theme among the poems shared thus far: highlighting differences and similarities, in this case, between canines and humans.

Dr. Marylu Hill, a faculty member and the assistant director of the Center for Liberal Education, presented three poems. “Academe” described Plato’s school: the students, the teachers and the informal outdoor setting in which they held class. Dr. Hill’s poem about Gregor Mendel celebrated that researcher’s life and his scientific contributions in the field of biology and genetics. Finally, “Unearthing Lizzie” gave a fresh, humorous reflection of Pre-Raphaelite poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s act of having his wife Lizzie exhumed so that he could retrieve some poems he had earlier buried with her, grief-stricken at her death.

Senior Courtney Sexton shared her poem about the significance of moving from place to place. She highlighted the feelings of loss, anxiety and even curiosity associated with this change, as well as the opportunity for one to take stock of her life. Will Sheridan contributed the final poem of the event, “Cycles and Systems,” which complemented Sexton’s poem. Sheridan’s poem emphasized approaching life changes, such as graduating and embarking on one's career.

In conjunction with National Poetry Month events, librarian Judith Olsen announced that seniors who had submitted poems for the 2007 Senior Class Poet award* had their poems posted prominently throughout Falvey's main floor as a way to integrate poetry into public spaces.

Once the readings concluded, the audience stayed to discuss the poems with the poets and enjoy the refreshments provided by the Library.

Contributed by Gerald Dierkes; photograph by Alice Bampton

* The 2007 Senior Class Poet is Lauren Linkowski. Class Poet Honorable Mentions are Elizabeth Kreider, Jennifer Lanzo and Jonathan Veit. Justin Quinn, Heimbold Endowed Chair in Irish Studies, judged the numerous entries and announced the winners at the English department awards ceremony on May 4.