Students Promote Appreciation of Poetry, One Poem at a Time

OGDEN, Utah – If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, what does a poem a week provide? Perhaps it’s nourishment for the soul.

That’s the hope of Hannah New, a Weber State University senior majoring in English with an emphasis in creative writing. Every Tuesday morning during the semester New distributes about 70 copies of a selected poem to locations in the Social Science Building. It’s all part of the Weekly Poem Project, an attempt by a group of WSU students to foster a greater appreciation of poetry, outside of the pressures and analysis of a formal class setting.

The group was originally inspired by poet Robert Dana, who visited campus in the fall of 2004. After Dana’s visit, eight students, with the support and encouragement of WSU English instructor Brad Roghaar, produced a book of poetry, “Voices from the Second Floor.” The same group came up with the idea for sharing a weekly poem with the campus community.

“Our goal is to share good poems and give people a chance to experience them, enjoy them,” said New, who is carrying on a tradition of selecting and distributing poems started by WSU alumnus Nic Shellabarger in spring of 2005. New will graduate this May, but she’s already made arrangements for sophomore David Thacker, with the support of WSU’s student literary publication Metaphor, to continue the project, perhaps with even more distribution points across campus. Starting this month, poems also are being posted online.

An avid writer who hopes to someday be a published author, New has had ample opportunity to refine her taste in poetry this year by serving as the poetry editor for Metaphor.

Most of the poem of the week selections tend to be contemporary, published poems, but New has included works by William Wordsworth and Emily Dickinson, along with unpublished student work. Rather than have a set criteria for selecting a poem, New relies on recommendations from her peers and poems she receives via National Public Radio e-mails, choosing works that strike her.

New’s work has not gone unnoticed. Most copies are gone by the time she refills the boxes with a fresh poem come Tuesday morning, she said.

The project also has received national attention. The WSU student newspaper, The Signpost, did a story about the Weekly Poem Project, which was picked up on the Internet by the national poet organization, The Academy of American Poets. That prompted e-mails of encouragement from other poetry fans.

New said she’s been amazed and pleased to overhear people discussing the poems around campus. That’s exactly the goal she and the other members of the Voices from the Second Floor group were striving for.

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Hannah New, poetry editor of Metaphor

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John Kowalewski, director of Media Relations
(801) 626-7212 •