Writing Across Borders celebrates the diverse cultural identity of the city of Akron and our country through the intimate and inclusive voice of poetry.
With a major grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, teaching artists from the Wick Poetry Center have engaged refugee and immigrant populations in the Akron, Ohio community in a cross-cultural, intergenerational conversation through poetry and graphic design and have offered people of all ages to share their voice across the divisions of language, age, and culture.
Poetry has an amazing and unique capacity to connect individuals. Traveling Stanzas works towards shaping a better future by inspiring creative and healing conversations in a society that feels increasingly isolated and divided. In 2015, The Knight Foundation awarded a grant to the Wick Poetry Center for the Writing Across Borders Project, which would empower individuals in refugee and immigrant communities in Akron to share their stories through poetry.
The North Hill neighborhood of Akron is a hub of cultures, languages, and traditions. The community has always welcomed newcomers. Nearly a century ago European immigrants from Italy, Germany, and Poland found a home in North Hill.
Today, immigrants and refugees from the countries in Africa and southeast Asia, especially Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar, have established homes, businesses, and traditions in North Hill and have enriched the lives of everyone in the city.
The Wick Poetry Center developed a method of writing poetry in ELL classrooms to help students expand their vocabulary and connect learning English in an emotional and meaningful way to their lives. Through local partnerships, workshops were held.
Through a Knight Arts Challenge grant, Traveling Stanzas partnered with Urban Vision, the International Institute of Akron, and Project Learn to host poetry writing workshops. Participants then share their poems and stories through video interviews.
Each workshop begins by reading aloud a model poem that introduces a linguistic pattern and concrete images around a specific theme or subject, such as “Where I’m From,” “My Voice,” or “My Heart.”
We then ask participants to say the language that resonates with them, thereby charging the air with powerful words and images from the model poem. Standing around tables displaying English language flash card nouns, adjectives, and verbs, we ask participants to choose several cards and to use those words in their own lines, encouraging them to play with the language. By drawing from the charged air of the classroom, participants often rub words together in unexpected combinations, sparking new meaning in their poems.
Poetry, like community, does not exist in isolation—it is the means by which we connect with others, with the larger world, and with a deeper sense of ourselves. We use poetry to build bridges between the strange and familiar and create intimacy with others through the sharing of stories and experiences.
The traveling digital exhibit features poems, illustrations, and videos that showcase refugee resettlement in our communities. At the heart of the exhibit is an interactive touchscreen experience, allowing visitors to browse this content. Below are just a few of the featured poets in the Writing Across Borders Exhibit.
Traveling Stanzas partnered with Kent State VCD students and a local design studio Each + Every to create a modular environmental design that will adapt to unique environments as it travels the world, and showcase the voices of each community just like in North Hill. Read more about the overall exhibit design here, or about the traveling exhibit as it travels on the Engagement page.
Are you interested in bringing Writing Across Borders to your city? Designed with a modular approach, our exhibits are ready for adaptation to various spaces—whether an open gallery, library hallway, or hospital lobby. With each new location, our exhibits can unite communities around important topics and facilitate a civic dialogue through the intimate and inclusive voice of poetry.
The diagram below outlines the five stations that make up our exhibits: Connect, Learn, Share, Reflect, and Create.
Traveling Stanzas community arts projects bring poetry to people’s everyday lives through innovative methods and digital platforms.