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December 5, 2013

Interactive reading combines poetry genres in the Galleries

By Travis Raymond

The Cleveland State University Poetry Center brought an interactive poetry experience to the Galleries at CSU Friday Nov. 22 with live readings and a combined poetry writing project.

Poets and finalists in the Poetry Center’s publishing contests last year, Rebecca Hazelton and Wendy Xu read selections from their latest books, both published this year by the Poetry Center.  To go along with the readings, the Poetry Center provided typewriters for attendees to type short poems of their own on brightly colored cards.  The small yellow, blue and pink cards were then attached to a chainlink frame that combined all the poems together into something of a colorful mural of poetry.

While commencing the evening, Professor Frank Giampietro, interim director of the Poetry Center, invited and encouraged the audience to try out the typewriters set up especially for the collaborative project in the south galleries.  The Poetry Center first made use of an interactive poetry project at this year’s IngenuityFest.  Professor Giampietro explained that the idea behind the interactive poetry project was to allow readers to be involved with poetry beyond simply reading and hearing it.

The first of the two poets to read, Xu read aloud powerful selections from her latest book, “You Are Not Dead.”  Between poems she shared with the audience the short anecdotes from her life that came to mind as she read her work.

Afterward, Xu called the reading at the galleries one of her favorites.

“I really enjoyed the reading – I’m always nervous to read, no matter how many times I’ve done it,” Xu said.  “The audience was so receptive though, and reading with Becky was such a treat.”

Xu emphasized the potential for community-building possessed by poetry.

“I love poetry readings because while often the act of writing poetry is so private, the reading is a space where we gather as people to be together and share things,” Xu said.  “It builds community, brings unlikely people together, and shows poetry for the dynamic voiced art form that it is.”

After making her own contribution to the interactive poetry project, Hazelton performed next.  Hazelton read selections from “Vow” as well as some of her earlier work.  The pauses between Hazelton’s poems not filled with sober silence were filled with laughter once she moved from the book’s darker subject matter to lighter fair.

Hazelton too spoke highly of the Cleveland State audience.

“I was so pleased with the turnout, and found it to be a really receptive and open audience,” Hazelton said.  “Audiences make or break a reading, so I was so glad we had such a great one.”

Professor Giampietro said a major impetus for incorporating interactivity with poetry reading was to illustrate the blurring of distinctions between the three most prominent poetry movements in the area: slam, spoken word and beat.

“As interim director of the Poetry Center, one of my main goals is to bring those communities together,” Professor Giampietro said.  “We could all really learn a lot from each other.”

The interactive poetry project will be on display outside the Poetry Center in Rhodes Tower.