A celebration of immigrant experiences


Description of “Traveling Stanzas: Writing Across Borders” at the exhibit’s entrance at Taylor Hall.

Molly Heideman

Lakewood Public Library will display the Wick Poetry Center’s “Traveling Stanzas: Writing Across Borders” exhibit to celebrate immigrants’ stories in the community. 

“Traveling Stanzas” is an interactive exhibit that showcases poetry and videos about the experiences of immigrants in Northeast Ohio. The project recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary.

More than a year ago, “Traveling Stanzas” caught the attention of Lakewood Public Library in Lakewood. The city has a very large immigrant population, so employees of the library believed this project could provide a voice for immigrants in the community.

“We’ve made it a priority to reach out and do programming and … involve (immigrants) in the library,” said Andrea Fisher, a librarian at Lakewood Public Library.

David Hassler, the director of the Wick Poetry Center, said the center is very excited to be working with the library and to share poetry with groups who may have never been exposed to poetry.

“The work of the Wick Poetry Center has evolved over the years to focus on bringing poetry to populations who do not already identify themselves as writers or readers of poetry,” Hassler said. “We found ways to bring poetry to everyday lives and to people and into communities to address certain needs and issues within that community.”

Hassler said Katie Daley, a teaching artist for the center, led a series of workshops and Györgyi Mihályi-Jewell, the marketing and public relations communication specialist, filmed participants sharing stories about their lives and the poetry that they had written.

Jessica Jewell, the senior academic program director, edited the clips and created seven short videos that are now part of the exhibit.

Hassler feels happy that the project continues to grow and uses poetry as a space for immigrants to share their experiences.

“It’s kind of a model of community engagement that takes core content and that can travel around the country,” he said.

The “Traveling Stanzas” exhibit will open at the Lakewood Public Library on March 8 and will be on display until April 30. The library will have a series of programs aimed at celebrating immigrant experiences while the exhibit is on display.

Fisher hopes members of the community will find a new appreciation for poetry when they visit the exhibit.

“Poetry is hard to write, even when you’re a native English speaker, and the idea and seeing that they could creatively join together words to convey thoughts and feelings, it’s pretty amazing,” Fisher said.  

Molly Heideman is a general assignment reporter. Contact her at [email protected].