‘Giving Voice’ hosts poets of all ages

Heather Bing

The sounds from a harmonica and guitar slowly filled the Auditorium as excited children’s voices hit the air in quick bursts like the flashes from their proud parents’ cameras.

Dance students stretched and gestured wildly in a flurry of pink and black, quickly rehearsing one last time.

Teachers stood poised, clipboards in hand, and watched for the last-minute students rushing down the aisles and up onto the stage.

Calmly, as though this organized chaos was to be expected, David Hassler, Wick program and outreach director, climbed the stairs, placed his water on the podium, smiled, and as the crowd hushed, “Giving Voice” began.

Last night’s poetry reading was the culmination of a semester’s work by Kent State students who worked in local schools teaching poetry. The course, teaching poetry in the schools, is offered through the English department, and this year’s 10 Kent State students helped to plan the final event, which displayed their students’ work.

Paul Bourquin, senior integrated language arts major, said watching his students’ expressions and happiness throughout the semester made all the hard work worth it.

“I hope the kids get a great experience out of this,” Bourquin said. “Poetry is an art form, and not a lot of people are exposed to it. I hope the kids get a love for poetry and an enjoyment from being a part of something bigger than Kent State students and working on poems.”

Wick Director Maggie Anderson dedicated this year’s performance to President Carol Cartwright and thanked her for her support of the arts throughout her presidency at Kent State.

“This is a wonderful treat for me,” Cartwright said as she accepted gifts from two elementary students. “It’s always very meaningful, but it’s also magical.”

With the help of guest musician Hal Walker, students from grades three through 12 were able to give voice to the poems and songs they had created throughout the semester.

Students from Susan Louis’ third grade class at Holden Elementary School presented a group poem, “Where do poems live,” where students described their poems living in pencils, their hearts and in their backyards bothering neighbors. One student recited her poem in both Korean and English.

Marcia Skidmore’s seventh graders from Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts not only recited poems, but sang, danced and played instruments in order to incorporate all elements of the arts into their work.

Skidmore presented her own poem, “Ode to the Skidzone”, and thanked her students for their courage.

“Tall and fearless, tall and taking risks,” she read. “Lines on your faces becoming lines on your papers.”

Along with the work of the local school students was a group poem presented by several of Hassler’s Kent State students as well as a song cowritten by Hassler and Walker.

The biggest challenge of putting on “Giving Voice” each year is organizing more than 200 students and teachers to create and perform a show that runs fairly smoothly, Hassler said. Although there is some rehearsal with the students and teachers in their own classrooms, the first time each part fits into the larger whole happens on the night of the show.

“In a way, it’s a crazy idea to think that we can pull this off year after year,” Hassler said. “It takes a lot of faith in the commitment of everyone involved, the hard work of my Kent State students and the participating teachers and students, and the mysterious, inherently powerful quality of poetry itself — the power of students of all ages giving voice, in an honest, authentic way, to what is close to their hearts.”

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Heather Bing at [email protected].