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Poetry honor house promotes creativity, community

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The Poetry honor house held an opening event on Friday, Sept. 14. The new house hopes to build creative community. Photo Credit: Gina Scharenbroch

Fostering a literary community on and off campus, the Poetry House offers students an accepting venue to share their personal poetic endeavors.

Based in Aaker House behind Regents Hall of Natural Sciences, 12 students with a common love of verse will be hosting low-key gatherings throughout the year for campus writers and musicians to share their work with a supportive community. They will also be taking their passion for poetry into the Northfield community by collaborating with the Northfield Public Library.

The addition of the Poetry House to the campus honor houses offers student writers and musicians a new forum to showcase their talent. Weekly workshops with Free Association, a poetry organization on campus, are the cornerstone of the Poetry House’s on-campus efforts to bring students together over poetry.

“We’re hoping to do an event like this each month with acoustic concerts, poetry slams and poetry reads,” Jon Haines ’14 said. “Aside from that, we are partnering with Free Association, who [is] the poetry club on campus. [The members] come down once a week, and people can read their work. It fits in with fostering a community of poets on campus.”

An outlet for closet poets around campus, the Poetry House is a haven for those who might not otherwise feel comfortable sharing their personal writing. The residents of the Poetry House hope that an established poetry community will inspire students to develop and share their poetic talents.

“The general idea is that everyone writes poetry, more or less,” Brody Halverson ’14 said. “But a lot of times, there isn’t a supportive environment for people to bring that up. It’s not like you can say ‘Here’s this poem I wrote’ at a party or with friends. We’re trying to create this environment where people can read their poems or more generally express themselves.”

Photo Credit: Gina Scharenbroch

Striving to develop a creative space for poetic students, residents of the Poetry House hope that having a laid-back venue for poetry on campus will also help to relieve some of the stressors that students face on the Hill.

“St. Olaf is a vibrant, exciting place to study, but there can be a lot of social and academic pressures,” Haines said. “If you’re not super involved, there’s a pressure to be involved and do more. We want to create an atmosphere where there isn’t that kind of pressure, where people can be who they are and embrace their individuality at St Olaf.”

While working to establish an on-campus following, the members of the Poetry House also have plans to collaborate with the Northfield Public Library to reach out to local families.

“Outside, in the Northfield community, we have a couple different ideas,” Haines said. “One thing we’re for sure doing is a bimonthly session at the library where we read children’s books and do creative poetry activities with kids on Saturdays.

On- and off-campus, the Poetry House residents are working to spread their passion for verse. Offering students an opportunity to open up and share their personal work, the Poetry House hopes to bring students together around a common love of poetry.

“We want to have a strong poetry community, and we really want people to feel comfortable coming down and hanging out,” Thomas Churchill ’14 said. “Our goal is to develop a stronger poetry community on campus. We want everyone to love poetry as much as we do. We want St Olaf to have a place where people feel comfortable reading their own poetry. We want to share our passion.”

tsuda@stolaf.edu