‘Stuck on Poetry’ events entice U students

Jessica Kimpell

Casting aside normal trepidations about poetry, creativity flourished Tuesday as University participants received hands-on experience in the formation of poetry.
The Weisman Art Museum featured readings by University students, staff members, poets and celebrities, performances by The Minnesota Poetry Slam Team and a magnetized Volkswagen Beetle adorned with magnetic poetry. The events constituted “Stuck on Poetry,” a celebration of National Poetry Month.
The resounding message of this year’s celebration is “the idea that poetry is not an elitist form — people can read it and people can write it,” said Karen Casanova, public affairs director for the art museum.
New twists to this year’s celebration incorporated magnetic walls in the museum plaza, a performance stage and a new magnetic Beetle, deemed the “Poetry Bug.”
These devices spurred participants to relinquish their apprehension about creating poetry, Casanova said.
“It is a cool thing to do on a Tuesday afternoon,” said David Shuler, a College of Liberal Arts freshman. “It is upbeat and included poems with humorous content.”
The participants exemplified the mission of National Poetry Month — promoting poetry as an attainable way to be artistic while having fun — by leaving traces of their own poetic brilliance on the magnetic poetry wall and the Beetle.
The purpose of the day was more than eliciting excitement about poetry; it was also aimed to raise awareness about the ease and accessibility of creating poetry, said Stacy Thieszen, administrative fellow in the creative writing program in the Department of English at the University.
Erin Fuchs, a CLA sophomore, said that in grade school she wrote “simple rhyming poetry.” But now as an older student, her own expectations about writing have risen.
“I guess I’m not really a confident (poetry) writer,” Fuchs said. “I have this idea that poetry has to be complex with a lot of thought put into it.”
These apprehensions were put to rest at the event through the use of Magnetic Poetry.
Dave Kapell, founder of Magnetic Poetry, Inc. and University alumnus, said the forgivingly simple poetry pieces alleviate the apprehensions of aspiring writers. Participants soon learn that they do not need to compose sophisticated verses to be poetic.
“We need to get back to word play — it is okay to have fun with words,” Kapell said.
Further debunking poetry’s supposed aloofness, Michael Dennis Browne, a professor in the creative writing program in the English department, read a poem in a dialectic manner with responses from audience members as part of his performance.
The selection of his piece came down to wanting to read poetry that would be “mutually entertaining for all,” Browne said. “Anything that can get poetry off the page and out to people is worthy.”
Oftentimes people lose their passion for poetry early in life. Love of language is beat out of young students with strict assignments, worksheets and grammar rules, Kapell said.
“If kids love language, they become readers, writers and better thinkers,” he added. “We are creatures of language, and that is why it is important to catch the Poetry Bug — playing with words is liberating.”
Kapell also spoke about the concept of play in relation to his business.
“Play is an important thing even in business. People come up to me all the time and say it’s always nice to see that people still get ahead with hard work and putting their noses to the grindstone — the American dream is still alive.”
But Kapell himself does not adhere to the ideal of the American dream.
“I don t really work hard; I play pretty hard,” he said. “Yes, I put in a lot of hours, but ultimately my success has come from having fun. That is where greatness comes from. It is not some macho thing — it is enjoying what you do,” Kapell said.
The Beetle, sponsored by Kapell’s company and Volkswagen, was on the last stop of its nationwide campaign and had previously been sent across the country to various schools to increase awareness about National Poetry Month and inspire creativity among students.