UWEC faculty calling for readers at International Poetry Reading

15th annual International Poetry Reading celebrates culture and language from around the world

Rosa Gómez

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Photo by Submitted by Stephanie Hoeksema

Pictured is a poem in Spanish written by fifth-year student Stephanie Hoeksema, titled “Con Calma” (Translation: calmly).

Lovers of poetry are invited to share their gifts, language and culture at the 15th annual International Poetry Reading.

Taking place during National Poetry Month, this year’s reading will be held virtually from 6 to 8 p.m. on April 28 via Zoom. 

Dorothy Chan, an assistant professor of English, an accomplished poet and co-organizer of the event, said poetry is deeply relevant to the culture. 

“Poetry has a large place historically — and also in a contemporary sense — in many cultures,” Chan said. 

The event seeks to honor the diversity of language and culture from around the world as readers are encouraged to read poetry in any language aside from standard English. 

Kaishan Kong, an associate professor of Chinese and one of the event organizers, said that this event allows people to embrace the beauty of ambiguity. 

Kong said that while not everyone may understand the language that is being shared, everyone can feel the passion of the reader. 

Josh Bauer, co-organizer and associate IS specialist, said this is something he has experienced while attending the event. 

“You can receive a translation on paper, but you’re actually experiencing the poetry how it was meant to be spoken and shared,” Bauer said.

From a language perspective, Kong said people who want to participate as a reader do not have to be able to speak several languages. 

“You don’t have to be fluent in this language,” Kong said. “You can be a language learner or maybe you heard it from your mom growing up.”

Kong has participated in the past as a reader and shared how she read a poem in a dying dialect from her hometown in China. She said this event allows people to honor and remember their heritage and native language. 

Kong said the event has drawn in international students as they are given a platform to celebrate their culture. It is her hope, along with her co-organizers, that more international students feel welcomed to attend and participate in the reading.

Thomas King, a retired UW-Eau Claire professor and speech-language pathologist, said he has seen upwards of 40 languages represented.

“I am fascinated at how our shared human capacities of speech, language, hearing and other means of communication can bring beauty and insight into our lives, even when the words are unfamiliar,” King said. 

Chan said that the performance of poetry also brings people together. She said that studying and celebrating the art of people of different identities, aids in creating a more intersectional lens to view the world. 

Being a part of many marginalized identities herself, she understands how poetry is a method in which many deep political issues are addressed, Chan said. 

The organizers said that because UW-Eau Claire is a predominantly white campus, many students may not have exposure to the level of diversity that will be on display at the event. They said attending this event is a strong first step to begin growing in intercultural competency. 

All of the organizers said the world needs a greater understanding of how different people navigate through life, and this event lays a foundation of encouragement to help people grow in awareness. 

Those who are interested in participating as a reader should email [email protected] with the language they are interested in reading by Friday March 26.

Gómez can be reached at [email protected]