UW-Eau Claire shares poetry from around the world

The 12th annual International Poetry Reading showcased poetry written in more than 25 languages

Macey VanDenMeerendonk

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Students, staff and Eau Claire community members shared poetry in a variety of languages on Tuesday night.

UW-Eau Claire celebrated the diversity of languages through poetry at the 12th annual International Poetry Reading on Tuesday night. Students, faculty, staff and Eau Claire community members gathered in Dakota Ballroom to listen to each other recite poetry in 25 different languages.

Abby Tschimperle, a first-year English critical studies student, said she enjoyed the opportunity to experience poetry in different languages and thinks it’s important that Eau Claire holds events like these.

“It opened up my eyes to cultures that I didn’t really know, and I think it opens other people’s eyes as well,” Tschimperle said. “It shows that language is universal despite the fact that we all stick to our own native languages, and I think it gives you new perspective.”

Readers took the stage one after the other, introducing their respective poems and the languages they were going to be read in. Some shared stories of the significance the poems had in their lives and some read them in group switching readers for every stanza.

A co-organizer of the event and visiting professor, Katie Vagnino, said the founders of the event, Jeff and Audrey Fessler — who retired from their organizing responsibilities last year — involved the English and language departments to create an event that explores both realms.

Vagnino said she felt if she and the other organizers, Dr. Kaishan Kong and Josh Bauer, didn’t take over the tradition, it would end. She said the event was too important for it not to continue.

“We thought it would be nice to celebrate some of the different cultures that people come from and let them share some of their native language or languages they’re studying in school,” Vagnino said.

Japanese, American Sign Language, Malay, Icelandic and Ojibwe were a few of the languages represented at the reading. The majority of poems were written by famous poets, a few by writers not commonly known and a couple were original pieces written by students.

Tyler Bushman, a senior history student, said he was encouraged by a professor to participate in the poetry reading.

“Our Chinese professor is always really energetic and enthusiastic about these things, so that’s why I decided to join in,” Bushman said.

Bushman said the event shows the diversity there is locally, and being able to show all these diverse languages shows acceptance of cultures and talents.

Dana Larson, a second-year international sustainability student, said the event provided a space for people to share and experience the cultures right in Eau Claire.

“It’s a nice reminder that we can reach out and that there are opportunities all around,” Larson said. “It’s also more inclusive for the people from around the world who are just visiting us that we can show them that we are at least trying.”

Vagnino said the event aims to recognize the qualities that make people from other countries, cultures and languages unique, while still finding the similarities that are being expressed in the poetry. She says what was nice about the reading was that while listening to the poems there are still similar sentiments being shown in the kinds of things people feel compelled to write about.

“I think it ends up being less about how different all the languages are,” Vagnino said, “but how this universal art of poetry that people use to express the same kinds of emotion regardless of what they are writing in.”