Destigmatizing poetry

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In their first semester, a group of five first-year friends found that they had a connection– they all liked to write poetry. And on Jan. 31, those same students stood at the front of the General Assembly of Muhlenberg’s Student Government Association (SGA), who voted to instate the Young Poets Society as one of the College’s newest clubs.

Not having a poetry club on campus, according to the club’s Vice President Catherine Poff ‘27, was shocking. As students at a liberal arts institution, she continued, “We express ourselves in so many different ways, so I think it was very crucial to be able to have a poetry club on campus for those who express themselves through poetry.” 

Founder and President Avani Gupta ‘27 agreed, reflecting on just how much of a call there may be for this club. “If I’m able to find, just within my friend group, so many people who appreciate poetry, I’m sure there [are] other people out there that I haven’t talked to who really appreciate poetry too.” She also commented on how “cool” it would be for this space to exist, for people to come together and bond over writing.

The name of the club was derived, naturally, from the acclaimed film “Dead Poets Society,” which depicts a group of teenage boys who at once hated poetry, but when presented with a passionate, influential teacher, grew to find deep love in poetry, understanding its meaning and building relationships. The Young Poets Society hopes to provide all of that to an audience of those who are “still kind of learning where [they] stand in writing and poetry,” Gupta explains.

The two took to poetry in various ways. Gupta sought out poetry as a way to fit in, to make friends, and as she grew older, said it helped her “process [her] feelings.” “It’s like taking the ugliest feelings and parts of yourself and then putting it in pretty packaging with language to present it to people acceptably,” she added. Adding to the sentiment of writing for fun, Gupta reflected, “I don’t really call myself a ‘poet,’ but I call myself ‘someone who writes poetry.’”

Poff found poetry as a way to aid in her ability to communicate with others, something she said she has struggled with in the past due to growing up with a speech impediment. “Poetry was kind of a way that I could say exactly what I wanted to say.”

Now, the club is setting their sights on the future. The Young Poets Society executive board consists of Gupta, Poff, Secretary Lauren Fluckiger ‘27, Treasurer Johnny Rappoccio ‘27 and Public Relations Head Molly Terdiman ‘27. 

Gupta commented on de-stigmatization as one of their main goals. “[Poetry] has this reputation of always having to be super deep and always having to be super philosophical and about all of these huge topics… It doesn’t have to be ‘good,’ it doesn’t have to be ‘publication-worthy,’ it can just be something you write,” Poff added. 

“Poetry can just be poetry,” she said, “Ultimately, the club’s goal is to be able to create a space where people who love poetry can connect with each other and appreciate the art.”

Their first event, a “Hot Chocolate Social,” included drinking hot chocolate and making blackout poetry, a practice that Gupta considers as being accessible to those who are intimidated by poetry. “You can pick up something that’s already written, black a few words out and you have a poem.”

The event, Gupta and Poff agree, was a great success. The two commented on how great it was, not only to work on craft but to gather together, “see new faces… and [be] able to connect with them.”

Though they don’t have a second event scheduled yet, Gupta stated that they’re excited about the prospect of holding a song lyric analysis, especially with the “perfect” announcement of Taylor Swift’s album “The Tortured Poets Department” arriving in April.

The Young Poets Society also hopes to close out their first semester with a larger event of poetic appreciation– for the poetry and the poets. “We do, ideally, want to end the semester with an open mic or an anonymous poetry night, so people can share their original works,” Gupta concluded.

Overall, the club hopes to be a welcoming community of people who enjoy poetry, and a safe space for destigmatizing the art form.

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