BY SHELBY LOOCK | PHOTO BY ALEX THOMAS
Something is popping up on Edgewood’s campus. This semester, four students from the English Department have been hosting Pop Up Poetry under the direction of English professor, Adam Fell. On Tuesday and Thursday nights in the Wingra Commons, Halie Tenor, Josh Klak, Nick Sengstock, and Rhea Lyons write poetry for the Edgewood community.
The group writes their pieces on typewriters so that people can take a physical copy of their poem. As Klak explained, “Anyone can come up to us and give us any subject—anything from the president to your dog. You can give us one word, a feeling, and we write a poem for you in the matter of minutes, on the spot.”
Fell brought forth the idea for this event last semester. He approached Lyons and Tenor, who were students in his Poetry Writing class. They began working on the idea together, and got other students involved. The English department had two typewriters, and Klak and Tenor brought in extras so that they could each work with one. The students say that they had no experience writing on a typewriter before, but spent time working together and practicing.
“We all practiced and watched some Youtube videos,” Lyons said. “We got our hands dirty. One day I went home with ink on my face.”
Not only did writing on a typewriter take practice, but also mastering the art of writing quickly. The group spent time working together in the English department, giving each other words and phrases to work with, until they were each able to write a poem in only a few minutes.
When asked about writing in this kind of environment for the first time, Klak said, “Part of it comes with practice. The first time was really nerve-wracking. After doing it for a while, you just have to go for it, and whatever happens, happens.”
Soon, the students were ready to put their practice to the test, and held the first Pop Up Poetry event in October.
While producing a poem within minutes presents a challenge, the students agree that writing is a team effort, and work together to make sure they are successful. When someone gives them an idea for a poem, each of them will pick and choose the ideas that make them feel most inspired. They also bounce ideas off each other while writing.
The challenges have proven to be rewarding. Lyons said that it pushes her out of her comfort zone and her own thoughts, and makes her connect to certain subjects without thinking about them.
“I like writing about the ideas that seem really vague, but I can tell that the person has really deep feelings about it,” she said. “My favorite one was about running. I didn’t have much connection to it, but I could tell that this person really did. It was nice to give her the poem and see that it was what she wanted to say.”
Tenor commented that she likes to writes poems about relationships and love, but when someone gave her the topic of “chaperone proteins,” she enjoyed the challenge that came along with it.
Another challenge was when someone approached Klak with a pot of succulents, and told him that they were a “squad,” and asked that his poem give each of them a personality.
Their work has been rewarding for the people receiving the poetry, as well. The students commented that some people have cried while reading their poems. Tenor said that poetry is a shared experience. “It creates a community of people who are affected by our writing. It makes people appreciate art and poetry in a communal way.”
Klak added that people are enthusiastic about the event and appreciative of their work. They have shown a lot of gratitude when they receive their poems. He said, “It’s nice to take something that is really personal, work it into words, and give it to them in a physical form.”
The students say that they usually write about 30 poems in a night. They hope that, in doing so, they will create a community, both within the English Department and the Edgewood campus, to show that writing has a real-world effect on people.
“I love it when people ask if this is for a class,” said Tenor. “Nope. I just like doing this.”
The event can best be summed up with a note taped to one of the typewriters. “Poetry is a team sport. No I in it.”