This coming April, in honor of National Poetry Month Chapman University will host a gumball machine that dispenses poems by CU students. A background blog post can be found here. For this entry I'd like to write about a notion that I could not fully express in the university's blog: the role of poetry on the university campus.
I remember in my undergraduate studies, where I first because acquainted with the idea of writing poetry, there was a flyer sent around about a small workshop one professor sought to start. The flyer was circulated as any email through a program of a university would be. I do not come from a large English program, but when I showed up for the first meeting part of me was shocked to see just four or five of us. Of course, looking back after a couple more poetry workshops I'm shocked that many showed, but at the time I was struck how so few showed up, expecting a few whom would only seek time with the very popular, widely-enjoyed professor.
I came across these poems whilst moving boxes the other day; the entire stack of poems from nine or ten weeks clipped and banded together. I'm connected to each of these people through social media and have seen their lives take a turn away from poetry. Speaking to a few recently as to why they no longer wrote, or what happened to the poems they did write, it seems to me the insular and close-knittedness of the workshop had prevented them from thinking of their poems as anything of any value, that deserved to be anywhere other than in a closet somewhere.
The same feelings came up in my most recent poetry workshop– 8 strong I might add– where we discussed and worked on countless poems that I can attest for the most part have not gone further than a few sets of eyes.
It is my hopes with this project that this will impact the sense of poetry on the campus, that it is indeed alive and being written every day by students and staff alike. The poems within the machine will be by those same peoples who are apart of the campus community, connecting poetry to the daily lives of others in a way separate from readings and workshops that are tailored for the crowed already in the know about poetry.
I'm currently working on introducing a social media aspect to this project, a way to foster that connection even further. The gumball machine is on it's way and the call for submissions goes out this Monday.