Launched in 2009 as a collaboration between Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center and Professor Valora Renicker’s Visual Communication Design students, Traveling Stanzas pairs poems generated in community writing workshops with graphic designs and disseminates these posters on public transportation throughout Northeast Ohio. Since 2009, Traveling Stanzas has continued to innovate and find new ways to bring poetry to people’s everyday lives, promoting the
power of poetry through multi-modal public installations and through its interactive website.
The Traveling Stanzas project is born from the belief that poetry is for the people. We turn to poetry to give voice to what is troubling us, to honor what we love, to make sense of our lives, to remember our past, and to commemorate what we’ve lost. The word “stanza,” from Italian, literally means “a small waiting room in a train station.” Indeed, Traveling Stanzas offers people moments of pause, pockets of time, with which to slow down and reflect on their lives, their communities, and to participate in a shared creative experience. Through evolving innovative methods and digital platforms, Traveling Stanzas is facilitating creative and healing conversations in such sectors of our communities as education, healthcare, literacy centers, libraries, national parks, museums, social service agencies for refugee and immigrant populations, senior centers, and veteran’s organizations.
Director of the Wick Poetry Center.
A selection of these poems, paired with graphic designs, are currently traveling on Akron Metro and PARTA buses and available as greeting card sets at area businesses. Additionally, a digital, multi-modal traveling exhibit will be created. The exhibit, which will open in Akron at Summit Artspace in January 2018, then tour nationally, will feature large touchscreen displays where users can browse poems and videos, share with others (via email and social media platforms), and submit their own short stanza or poetic lines to an ever-growing digital community poem at each site. Using the newest digital technology to connect us to one of our oldest technologies—the written word—Traveling Stanzas: Writing Across Borders celebrates the diverse, cultural identity of our region and will engage a national, civic dialogue through the intimate and inclusive voice of poetry.
Kent State English major and Wick teaching artist Regis Coustillac, who has been leading writing workshops with refugee and immigrant children and adults, says that this opportunity has made him think about his own sense of home. “To be able to share my love of this place is one thing,” says Regis Coustillac, “but more than that, it’s taught me about the word home, and the idea of family. If I were to be picked up from Ohio today, that would be jarring, but home is so much more than that. It’s where the people you love are, and it’s where the people you’re willing to love and support will be … Every day I go to teach, whether it’s to Urban Vision or IIA, I come back changed, I come back new. Every day is a growing opportunity.”
Our Traveling Stanzas project, with a 2-year total budget of $250,000, is currently the
largest grant for poetry in our country. We are grateful for the many sponsors, foundations, and individuals in our own community who have helped us raise the $125,000 match for our Knight Foundation grant. Additionally, with sponsorship from the College of Communication and Information, a two semester environmental design class is engaging undergraduate and graduate students to create the environmental designs of the interactive, digital exhibit.
Skype conversation with
President Beverly Warren
in Florence, Italy where she
read one of her poems.
The Traveling Stanzas Map lets users experience community poetry from near and far. It also helps them navigate to and explore poetry in the environment.
Superhero by Day Soe Wah, Karen People displaced from Myanmar.
Design by Lisa Cook.
This past fall, in partnership with the City of Kent, Main Street Kent, and Each + Every design studio, the Wick Poetry Center brought Traveling Stanzas to electrical utility boxes throughout downtown. Seven utility boxes have been covered with Traveling Stanzas poems, written by local schoolchildren and adults, and paired with beautiful illustrations. By pushing an easily accessible audio button housed in a plastic 3D-printed box fabricated by the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, visitors can also listen to the child or adult read his or her poem. The utility boxes project is also connected to Traveling Stanzas displays around the world. By accessing the Traveling Stanzas Poetry Map website
(www.travelingstanzasmap.com), users can virtually visit Traveling Stanzas displays wherever they exist, as well as get walking and driving directions to nearby Traveling Stanzas kiosks or installations. This collaborative community arts project contributes to our thriving downtown, and is yet another way that the City of Kent and the University have joined forces to bring art to people’s everyday lives.
Currently, with a major, two-year grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Wick Poetry Center is working with Each + Every Design Studio and Kent State College of Communication and Information students to produce Traveling Stanzas: Writing Across Borders. Additionally, student teaching artists from the Wick Poetry Center are engaging the refugee and immigrant populations in the Akron, Ohio community in a cross-cultural, intergenerational conversation through poetry and graphic design. Working with Project Learn, Urban Vision, and the International Institute of Akron’s (IIA) refugee and immigrant populations, as well as the Akron Public Schools (APS), Wick is offering weekly poetry workshops to encourage people of all ages to share their voice across the divisions of language, age, and culture.
An electrical utility box in downtown Kent
featuring Dear Monarch by Mrs. Vesia’s
Preschool Class. Design by Alison Farone
Wick teaching artist Regis Coustillac leads a workshop with refugee and immigrant children and adults.
Poetry is the means by which a place comes to know itself. And in Kent, Ohio the Wick Poetry Center’s Traveling Stanzas project is giving voice to our town and our region.
You & I by Linda Zhao, China. Design by Alison Farone.