— Melissa K. Downes
I’ve known Hannah Gloeckl for several years and have always been impressed by how thoughtful, smart, and dedicated she is, but getting to see her tackle this project makes me even more proud.
Hannah designed the Poetry Matters project, did outreach to 537 Clarion, the Clarion Free Library, and the Clarion Boro (about graffiti on Main Street). She worked with students in different University organizations. She created advertising, scheduled events, and discovered many things about scheduling and advertising that will make her next foray into service and event planning even more successful. She is doing ongoing scholarly research on literacy, community service, and poetry-focused literacy campaigns, but she has already put that research into practice, developing poetry workshops, finding poems to write on sidewalks, and gathering appropriate and enjoyable poetry books for reading with children at the Clarion Free Library.
Hannah and I have learned good lessons, both from what has gone right and what has gone wrong. Both of us already knew the importance of long-term planning, hard work, and grit, but we’ve learned even more about these skills and attitudes. We’ve learned that redundancy in communication and advertising is important, and that paraphrasing, confirming, and reflecting are key communication skills when building a project with diverse people with busy schedules.
Both of us care about poetry, and it is good to discover the rewards of sharing what we love with others. We’ve learned (again or for the first time) the value of putting what we love into practice and applying what we know to the world and community around us.
Each event fostered pleasure in poetry and celebrated poetry as part of a community’s cultural life. My favorite moment of this project so far was when the children at the Clarion Free Library kid’s reading came up to the front, sat in the big rocker, and began reading poetry to us. Yet, while community members who attended these events learned about and enjoyed poetry, they also learned that college students can (and should be) a valuable part of our larger community.
I’ve been really pleased by the way people from different groups have come together and have supported this project. Clearly, Hannah and I owe thanks to Dan Parker, Jean Smith, and other members of the Clarion Free Library, to Leah Chambers and 537 Clarion, and to the University students and organizations who have helped us. We also need to thank the local poets (from both the University and from the greater community) who read poetry this last Thursday to an audience of faculty, students, and community members: John Miller, Elisabeth Sauvage-Callaghan, and Kay Fineran Luthin (and me!).
We talk about teamwork with our students and have them practice it in our classes (as we should), and we work in teams with other faculty and staff (as we should), but it is a wonderful experience to get to be part of a team with a student. While this is Hannah’s project and she deserves the praise, I’ve had a great time working through issues with her, brainstorming, supplying contact information for people in the community, giving her support and advice…and praise.
Hannah visits my office weekly. Each time she leaves the office, I tell her: “I’m proud of you.” And I am. And I should be!
Melissa K. Downes is an associate professor of English at Clarion University. She loves teaching. She is interested in talking about how people teach and enjoys sharing how she teaches. She is an 18th-century specialist, an Anglophile, a cat lover, and a poet. She can be contacted at email@example.com