Wick Poetry Center looks to the past during 25th anniversary celebration

Kyle Roerink

From left to right: Brandon Boudreaux, Wick fellow, Marianne Jackson, Outreach Assistant, David Hassler, Program and Outreach Director, and Alice Cone, anniversary supervisor, collaborate in the Wick Poetry Center’s reading room. Shaye A. Painter | Daily

Credit: DKS Editors

Poetry, much like tragedy, can have a special way of bringing people together. This school year marks the 25th anniversary of the Wick Poetry Center. It has grown from a single scholarship to an international phenomenon, empowering and encouraging anyone who has a passion for writing.

Robert Wick, a former art department faculty member at Kent State, and his brother Walter, who both lost their sons in two separate car accidents, established scholarships for Kent State students who have a passion for poetry. Both boys had a passion for writing.

“I think that it makes sense that Wick was founded on tragedy, because poetry transforms sorrow into sweetness,” said David Hassler, program and outreach director for Wick Poetry Center. “Poems are about what trouble us, and they can help us to channel our emotions.”

Center director Maggie Anderson said that for 25 years, providing opportunities to students, Ohioans and writers across the globe has been the focus of the center.

The Wick Poetry Center annually awards more than $20,000 in tuition scholarships to Kent State. Each year, four undergraduate students receive a one-time award for winning the Undergraduate Poetry Competition, and three to four entering freshmen from Ohio receive renewable scholarships for placing first, second or third in the Ohio High School Poetry competition.

The top award at the Wick Poetry Center is the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize. It is a competition open to anyone that has not yet published a book. A nationally recognized poet chooses the winning manuscript, which is published by the Kent State University Press. Two thousand dollars is awarded to the winner as well. The judge and the winner come back to Kent State after the book is published to conduct a reading and hold workshops.

The 2007 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize winner was Djelloul Marbrook, author of “Far from Algiers.”

“My wife made a list of the six top poetry competitions in the country, and Wick was one of the top six. We submitted the manuscript, and we won the Wick prize,” said Marbrook.

He said that when Anderson called him to tell him he was the winner, he asked her to repeat herself three times because it was so wonderful.

Originally from Algeria, 73-year-old Marbrook is an example of the wide range of demographics the Wick Poetry Center affects. Marbrook said all he ever wanted to do in life was to share poetry with whoever would read it. And the employees of the Wick Poetry Center were proud to turn his dreams into a reality.

The 25th anniversary celebration has a special theme for each month. The month of September, coined as “Celebrating Our Own,” highlights past winners of the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Scholarship Awards winners with a two-day set of readings and workshops.

“There will be lots of panels and talks, and there will be a lot of writing experience and advice going around,” said Brandon Boudreaux, a graduate student involved in the Wick Poetry Center. “It is an inviting community and a lot of people want to come back to it.”

Hassler said that it is exciting to bring back past Wick winners and see how they have taken their experience to help make others grow.

“The spirit of the 25th validates that you can make a life with a passion of poetry,” Anderson said.