In a semester-long project by the students of a creative writing poetry class, aspiring authors are creating a magazine of their own poetry.
The magazine, which will be released digitally in December, is an assignment from Professor Deborah Miller-Fox, assistant professor of English. The magazine is the first one of its kind.
Although Miller-Fox has given a similar assignment in a previous semester, the current class is contributing to one larger work. Each student contributes writings as well as in the setup of the magazine, whereas in the past small groups of students have created shorter compilations.
Based on each student’s skills and abilities, Miller-Fox assigned each of the twenty students to one of four teams: magazine layout, copy editing/selection, marketing/public relations or digital publishing.
“I gave direction and defined the scope and the categories of items that would be included, and I assigned students to different work teams based on their skills and interests,” Miller-Fox said. “But the students are controlling the actual content and organization of the magazine and its design—this really is a product of their talent and invention, not mine.”
The students on the selection and editing team decided which poems are being included in the magazine. Each of the students in the class submitted two of what they consider their best poems from their work this semester and the selection team chose the one that they believe is a better fit for the magazine.
All of the writing in the magazine comes from assignments that students completed during the course.
Abby Johnson, a senior English major, is the leader of poetry copy editing. She said that each of the poems is unique, but because they are coming from the same course, some poems were written to the same prompts. Still, there are unique differences between each poet and poem.
“From the poems that I’ve read that have been submitted, a lot of them have to do with themes of what it means to go to college, to be separate from your family,” Johnson said.
Kendra Martin, a senior double majoring in visual communications and writing, is the leader of the layout team. The layout team was responsible for assigning a theme that fit the poetry that had been submitted for inclusion. Because students were able to select any two poems from the semester, the focus of each poem varied.
“My team struggled at first with deciding on a theme,” Martin said. “Ultimately, we chose one of remembrance and nostalgia.” Many of the poems included are whimsical and provide a glimpse into moments past.
“I personally connect with this theme and hope others will too because of its duality,” Martin said. “Nostalgia can be full of healing, a celebration of what has shaped us into who we are or it can be darker in nature as we recall what has hindered us.”
The marketing and public relations team is led by Lane Webb, a junior English major. Webb explained that his team is working to show the student body that poetry is art.
He sees that a focus on clear and concise communication can turn people away from poetry.“I think that’s why people are being turned away from poetry—it’s kind of abstract, it’s not concise, it’s not direct,” Webb said.
For students who may not typically have an interest in poetry, this magazine may be a way to hear some of the voices of the campus.
“I think it always helps to exist in a community if you are aware of the voices from that community, even if they are voices you might not know,” Johnson said.
“It’s approachable yet highly meaningful. The emotions and effort are tangible, almost as though all of us wore our hearts on our sleeves for this project,” Martin said. “It’s worth looking into for anyone who enjoys a glimpse at the lives of the people on this campus, or anyone who enjoys creative expression.”
The course has focused on the generation of an original body of work as well as the analytical work of interpretation and the precise language to discuss poetry.
“We’ve spent a lot of time looking at what other accomplished writers have done and learning to discuss it in a way that is informed and analytical and exact,” Miller-Fox said. “Because the more [students] learn about how to examine someone else’s poem and recognize all of the different things that are happening in that piece, the more informed their own choices can be when they’re writing a poem.”
By learning from the poets who have shaped the art and have been favored by readers, students are then able to create their own poetry that readers will relate to.
“We have to be hospitable as writers and give our readers the keys so that they can unlock the house that is our poem, or the rooms inside that house,” Miller-Fox said. “Or give them a kind of map to teach them how to read our work, but we can also make that an intellectually challenging process so that people have to invest something.”