International students express ideas of friendship through poetry

Chelsea Graff

Kent State international students shared their ideas of friendship through poetry Thursday night at the “International Coffees and International Poetry: A Winning Combination” at the Wick Poetry Center.

The event featured five students who read poems, both in their native language and English, about what friendship means to them and what it means in their respective countries. The event started with jazz music as students sat on pillows in circles, sipping a variety of coffees from around the world and sampling finger foods from different countries.

Sarah Li, a graduate hospitality and tourism assistant, said the poetry center, which turned into a coffee house for the night, organized the event to promote mutual learning between the five cultures present: China, India, Mali, Kurdistan and Ukraine. The Gerald H. Read Center for International and Intercultural Education sponsored the event.

“Our unit is really diverse, and we feature different cultures and promote mutual learning,” Li said. “We want them to feel uncomfortable when the students are reading in their native language. It would be like going to another country where you don’t know the language.”

Each speaker shared more than one poem they thought expressed friendship to them.

Aboudou Berthe, a graduate student studying curriculum and institution from Mali, read a poem titled “What is Friendship?” about how the people of Mali describe friendship in their culture.

Xin Yan, a sophomore hospitality management major from China, read a poem called “Bring in the Wine,” a poem she read in English and Chinese about how wine adds to a party.

“I chose this poem because in China there are three things that always bring us together — it’s poetry, tea and wine,” she said.

Volodymyr Borshch, a graduate appointee in the Liquid Crystal Institute from Ukraine, wrote a poem by Taras Shevchenko. The audience laughed after he read the English translation, as it poked fun at a lady who wanted to get married but couldn’t because her parents didn’t want her married.

Gulsheen Kaur Chhabra, a sophomore fashion design major from India, said she chose a poem about childhood because that’s when she first learned about friendship and when it was first important to her.

Alex Silverio, a senior psychology, human development and family studies major, said he came to the event because he was interested in different cultures.

“It’s very important that we know about them. I like how different languages sound,” he said. “I came to this country at a very young age, and I appreciate it.”

David Hassler, director of the Wick Poetry Center, said the center has plans to get a group of international students together next semester to read poetry once a week.

“It was refreshing to hear so many different tongues through the intimate voice of poetry and the kind tenderness of poetry,” Hassler said. “Often in our daily TV news when we hear foreign language spoken, its in anger, or loss, or sorrow, or political strife. Tonight, we hear it through the voice of poetry in way of yearning and of a shared common human feeling and emotions.”

Contact Chelsea Graff at [email protected].