In conjunction with National Poetry Month, the University of Lynchburg’s School of Humanities and English department will sponsor the “Pandemic Poetry Project,” a two-week-long, public humanities initiative, April 12-25.
“As English majors, minors, and professors, we know the incredible value that poetry has and its unique ability to help us process powerful emotions and experiences like trauma and grief,” Dr. Meghan McGuire, assistant professor of English, said.
“As we all work to heal from a year filled with anxiety, loss, and disappointment, poetry seems like a natural balm for our community. Poetry not only gives voice to our pain, but it calls our attention to the beauty and blessings that surround us, even during times of struggle.
“As a department, we understand how poetry can connect us, and we want to share that connection with the broader campus community.”
Over the next week, April 12-18, the campus community will find poetry almost everywhere — bathroom mirrors, bus stops, red Adirondack chairs, sidewalks, and all sorts of surprising locations.
“The goal is to bring poetry out of the classroom and into unexpected public places,” McGuire said. “We want members of the community to encounter poetry in their everyday lives and routines: walking to class, grabbing a snack, waiting on the bus, etc.”
The poems will be by a variety of people — everyone from well-known poets, like the award-winning Wendell Berry, to Lynchburg students whose work will soon appear in The Prism, the University’s literary magazine.
“A diverse group of poets are represented in the selections so far, spanning multiple countries and centuries,” McGuire said. “Students are also encouraged to submit their own work for the project. We have so many talented creative writers in our department that I can’t wait to share their poetry with our campus community.”
Those who spot the poetry during the “Guerilla Poetry” event are invited to snap a picture or selfie with it and create an Instagram post with #LynchburgEnglishDepartment. Each post counts as an entry into a drawing for gift cards and prizes.
“I think it’s a great idea to have students put poems around campus, because it allows students to express themselves and share their enjoyment of poetry with other students,” Anna-Catherine Kueng ’22, one of the English majors involved in the project, said.
“I would like to hang Frank O’Hara’s ‘Having a Coke with You’ because that is one of my favorite poems. I first read it in college, after seeing a poetry exhibition at the Daura Museum. Writing is so powerful, so I’m glad students will get to read different works as they walk around campus.”
English major Nicole Tolley ’22 agreed. “I was really excited about this project when I heard about it,” she said. “I love reading poetry and I’m happy to share some of my favorites. I can’t wait for fellow students to find new poetry and new poets. It’s always nice to find new poets and maybe even living poets that you can follow on Twitter.”
In conjunction with the Pandemic Poetry Project, The Prism will be released Thursday, April 15. Kueng, who serves as co-editor of the magazine with Tolley, is excited for its release.
“There are so many wonderful poetry, prose, and creative nonfiction pieces, in addition to visual art,” she said. “It’s great that the Pandemic Poetry Project and The Prism release coincide because it really highlights the value of creative writing.”
The following week, April 19-25, students can share poetry with others. During the “Poetry Postcard Project,” students can send a postcard with a poem on it to faculty, staff, friends, or family. The English department will cover the cost of postage.
“This past year has been challenging for everyone, and we are all feeling a little disconnected from each other, so we’re hoping to share a poem of comfort or inspiration with someone who might need it,” McGuire said.