Wick Poetry Center co-founder leaves behind legacy

Walter Wick

Walter Wick

Madeline Zupko

Walter Wick, co-founder of Kent State’s Wick Poetry Center, passed away last month on Christmas morning after his recent diagnosis of pancreatic cancer at the age of 85.

The Wick Poetry Center, located in the May Prentice building at the edge of campus along the Esplanade, is a center that “engages emerging and established poets and poetry audiences through readings, publications, workshops, and scholarship opportunities’ on a local, regional, and national level,” according to its website.

Walter and his brother Robert Wick founded the poetry center in 1984.

Robert said the idea for the center came about when his son passed away in a car accident in 1973; exactly seven years later to the day that Walter’s son passed away in a car accident.

“I had received some insurance money and I didn’t know what do with it. I felt like I needed to do something … so I contacted someone about a scholarship,” Robert said. “Wick Poetry would not have occurred in the way that it did if it weren’t for my brother.”

David Hassler, director of the Wick Poetry Center, said he believes that the center has evolved into one of the best at Kent State. Through Walter’s generosity, the center has been able to offer an abundance of opportunities to the community to connect with their passions — both financially and logistically — to help them develop as writers and find their own meaningful voice.

“My brother was a wonderfully generous human being; He was a person who was willing to share his good fortune in all respects,” Robert said, “whether it’s his scholarships or someone on the side of the road.”

The Wick brothers were able to take the “tragic loss” of their sons and, in turn, transform the heartache into something beneficial for the community, according to Hassler.

Hassler said that the brothers were a real source of inspiration for the center and himself because of their passionate belief in the mission of the Wick Poetry Center.

“One of (Walter’s) greatest joys was to see the way the poetry center was bringing poetry to all people in new and innovative ways and using poetry as a way to break out of their own skins and engage with themselves in new ways and also with others,” Hassler said. “Walter was most excited that poetry was a way for one person to speak with the inner voice of another.”

Robert, also a sculptor, said poetry is not his go-to genre.

“I am not a poetry reader, but my son was quite pretentious; He was failing school but reading Aristotle and (Franz) Kafka,” Robert said.

According to Robert, his brother Walter not only started the poetry center for their sons, but also for his own love of poetry.

“Walter Wick was a phenomenal man — a kind of renaissance man,” Hassler said.

Hassler said Walter had an “encyclopedia-like knowledge,” and was an avid reader.

“We’ve evolved in a way as humans, ultimately to share our more propounding thoughts and the most meaningful thoughts of our minds,” Hassler said. “Walter’s passion and his life in itself is almost like a book that we’re still reading.”

“From a personal standpoint, I had the best brother in the world,” Robert said. “No one could have had a better brother … He was a gift from heaven, and he blessed my life; Our love transcended.”

Madeline Zupko is a general assignment reporter, contact her at [email protected].