The National Federation of State Poetry Societies

The National Federation of State Poetry Societies

The Ohio Poetry Association (OPA) hosted the annual conference for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (NFSPS) in Columbus, OH from June 22 to June 26. It was the first in-person meeting for both OPA and NFSPS since early 2020. One hundred and fifty poets from 29 states attended, partaking in workshops, performances, and open mic events.

An eco-poetry hike was a special event in Highbanks MetroPark. Eco poetry refers to poems that discuss the interactions between humans and nature and can range from deeply personal to deeply political works. These poems are concerned with environmentalism, sustainable farming, recycling and other processes that people can undertake to preserve the world around them. For this event, poets were stationed at different parts of the MetroPark, where they would recite their works under trees. Poets for this event included Cleveland Heights poet laureate Ray McNiece and Poetry Out Loud coordinator Chiquita Mullins Lee.

Poet and advocate Dr. Emily Rose Cole led a workshop on the imagery of disability in poetry. She noted that disability is often treated with contempt or fear in contemporary poetry, and guided participants exercises that were intended to help reframe limitations, of any kind, as opportunities.

Jennifer Hambrick presented her beliefs that poets are often reluctant to let their work flow and instead attempt to crush their ideas into small boxes. Many poets find longer poems intimidating, and she wants more poets to allow their poems to grow as large and grand as they need to be. She used examples from poets such as IU professor Ross Gay to illustrate her point. Participants were encouraged to write a poem as long as they could, focusing on each single detail they might consider important for filling out the world of the poem.

A workshop led by Kerry Trautman focused on the practice of collaborative poetry. Most people, poets included, think of writing poetry as a solitary activity, written by one person alone. Yet poets can and do work together, especially in the last 50 years, and these poems bring together different perspectives and visions. The poets may work in a variety of ways – they may alternate individual lines or stanzas, or they might hand off the poem once they complete their lines. In each case, poets take their own ideas and interweave them together to create the final poem.

Other workshops included a poem sequence panel discussion, a cut-up style exercise inspired by dreams and the paintings of Leonora Carrington and an ekphrastic poetry session led by Steve Abbott. The workshops were engaging and full of poets eager to share their newly created poems with the group.

The most highly anticipated events were the readings by Kari Gunter-Seymour (poet laureate of Ohio) and Hanif Abdurraqib. Seymour recently published an anthology of Appalachian poetry, I Thought I Heard A Cardinal Sing, which was sponsored by the American Academy of Poets. As part of the project, copies were distributed to 732 schools in the state of Ohio. Abdurraqib, a Columbus native, has published three books of poetry and two collections of essays detailing aspects of Black American life.

He is heavily influenced by classic and contemporary pop music and has written about figures such as Marvin Gaye and A Tribe Called Quest. Both events were enlightening and full of joyous, exciting work from both authors.

The IU East Campus Library has a wealth of resources related to poetry, from composition to critical analysis. We have databases focused on African American poetry, colonial and early American poetry, literary criticism and Victorian women’s poetry, among other literature and language databases. In addition to databases, we also hold the Mary Fell Collection, a treasury of poem drafts, manuscripts, ephemera and manuals which were owned by IU East professor and award winning poet Mary Fell. We are more than happy to help you learn more about poetry from any angle you wish. If you’re curious, ask us! or click this button:

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