Schools unite through poetry

Two professors with a vision started a poetry series, in order to help unite and diversity FAMU and Florida State University.

The series, which began in July 2002, started at the Black Dog Café and as attendance grew, sponsors decided to move the series to a venue that was larger and closer to FAMU and FSU in order to bolster a mixture of people.

On Thursday evening at the Nan Boynton Memorial Gallery, part of the 621 Gallery in Railroad Square, FAMU professor and director of the Anhinga Press, Rick Campbell and FSU professor Joann Gardner were attendees.

“I’ve noticed that there is still some segregation between the two universities and we hope that poetic expression is one way of bringing people together,” Mary Jane Ryals said, who is the editor for the Apalachee Review.

Recognizing the importance of diversity has been an essential part of the poetry series’ success.

“Our series is important because we reach out to a broad group of people and not just one niche,” Michael Trammell said. “We have a welcoming community spirit and inclusion is our goal.”

In an attempt to keep the poetry series fresh, sponsors invite different writers and create different themes, which helps to increase interest in the monthly readings.

“I find that one of the things that is odd about reading my poetry is switching gears,” Campbell said. “I was a teacher up until 15 minutes ago and now I have to take on the persona of a poet.”

The event, sponsored by Anhinga Press and the Apalachee Review, was a celebration of poetry and life. The poetry series was first initiated in order to fill a void in the community.

“Rick and I discussed the need for a place to nurture local and regional writers and he had the idea to start this series,” Ryals said,

Gardner stressed the importance of the Anhinga Press & Apalachee Review reading series to the Tallahassee community and the surrounding schools.

“This poetry series is crucial. There are very few events where FAMU and FSU come together and bridge the gap,” Gardner said. “I believe that art has a way of healing and building a community … hopefully what we are doing can help repair that divide.”

Campbell’s poems for the evening were all love poems and very pastoral dealing with the joy of fatherhood and family life. “Poetry is so important to me because it makes me feel connected with the rest of the world. Poetry gives me that joy one feels when they have created something… and what is cool about tonight is that my FAMU colleagues and my students came out to support this endeavor. It is a great feeling for the worlds of father, poet, and teacher to integrate again,” Campbell said.

The attendees seemed to be thoroughly impressed with an evening filled with culture and expressive poets.

“This event made me think of how easy it is to overlook all the cultural events in Tallahassee,” said Manuel Patterson, 20, a junior majoring in computer science from Clearwater. “Joann Gardner’s poetry was extremely interesting and very descriptive. Rick Campbell’s poetry’s references to nature were definitely appealing to me. Both poets were very personal and gave background information about themselves and their reasons for writing the poems they presented.”

The sponsors’ hope the poetry series continues to gives students and citizens an opportunity to come together, learn from published poets, and grow from the experience.