An audience gathered in the Quick Center for the Arts to hear poets read their original work on Tuesday Jan. 24. The poets ranged from age 5 to 13.
“It’s a chance for kids to have their voices heard who don’t usually speak out,” said Sabine Januski, a middle school teacher at Six to Six Interdisciplinary Magnet School, whose quiet seventh grade student read his poem to the crowd of parents, teachers and students at “Poetry For Peace.”
Since 2009, Fairfield University faculty, staff and students have been reading poems submitted to them from kindergarten through eighth grade Bridgeport schools. The poets are asked to answer the question, “What does peace mean to me?” This year, out of 1,200 entries, there were 60 winners, according to Dr. Beth Boquet, co-coordinator of the event.
The poems ranged from third graders talking about the little things that brought them peace, such as cupcakes or the shapes of clouds, to the older students discussing issues of police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I thought the event was very interesting. I want to go into education so I wanted to go to an event that was similar to that,” commented audience member Kaitlyn Blanchard ’20.
Connecticut Writing Project-Fairfield, a National Writing Project site hosted at Fairfield University, proudly advocates writing instruction in K-12 schools and has loved collaborating with the English Department in tandem with Poetry For Peace.
“It is amazing to watch the work unfold each year,” acknowledged Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall, Director of CWP-Fairfield, “and to see the ways it continues to expand.” Crandall promotes the contest with principals and teachers, and occasionally offers poetry workshops in local schools. “Every year, more and more students enter the contest. The award ceremony is one of my favorite evenings of the year,” said Crandall.
The event was sponsored by The Writing Center, English Department, the CWP, Office of Service Learning and the Martin Luther King Coordinating Committee. The MLK Coordinating Committee is comprised of faculty, staff, and students who work to organize events such as, Poetry for Peace and the Memorial March, in celebration of Martin Luther King Day.
“We are on the poetry unit right now in English. Our professor, Colin Hosten [English Professor and Writing Center Graduate Assistant], asked my class to come to this to remind us of where we used to stand with poetry compared to where we are now,” said Kate Walzel ’20, an audience member.
The poets sat with either their families or teachers. They were called down by age group and stood alongside the stage as they waited for their names to be called to read their original poetry to the crowd.
Many of the poems discussed everyday details like snacks, the sky, or even a good book.
“This [event] reminds of us of the presence of poetry in our daily lives,” said Boquet.