Durham Tech’s poetry month shows a new side of poetry

By Amanda Ruehlen
UNC Web Editor
the Durham VOICE

On April 14, students in the hallways of Durham Technical Community College will be stuffing poetry in their pockets, while the faculty will be armed with pocket-sized poems to hand out for “Poem in Your Pocket Day.”

That is just one of the celebrations that Durham Tech is planning for April’s National Poetry Month and the school is gearing up for a host of other activities.

“I want people who don’t even feel that they were initially interested in poetry to come out,” said Nadiah Porter, an expressive poetry teacher at Durham Tech.  “I’m trying to pump them up and get them excited about poetry month.”

The first event will be a workshop about spontaneous poetry led by Porter on Thursday, April 5 from 3 p.m to 4:30 p.m. The workshop, along with all other poetry month activities, will be held in room 325 of the Phillips Building on Durham Tech’s campus, which is the Teaching-Learning Center. Porter said the workshop will likely involve each participant creating one line of poetry about the same topic and reading the lines simultaneously.

Nadiah Porter, an expressive poetry teacher at Durham Tech, stands in front of a bulletin board at Durham Tech. Porter is planning for the school’s celebration of National Poetry Month in April. (Staff photo by Amanda Ruehlen)

“It is nice to see how peoples’ minds work and how people are in agreement on the same subject,” she said.

And it is not surprising that spontaneity is the theme of Porter’s workshop. She considers herself a spoken word poet, which has no structure and is based on performance.

She said she hopes poetry month will allow her to introduce spoken word to students, and added that newcomers to this form of poetry are usually blown away by its power.

She said the perfect opportunity to showcase this power is a spontaneous open mic night that she plans to name “Speak Easy.”

The “Speak Easy” will be the culminating and final activity of the month, and an event that Porter expects to draw around 150 audience members on Thursday, April 28 at 4 p.m.

“The open mic will be spontaneous,” Porter said. “All we need is the stage and a mic, and we’ll let it create itself.”

Celebrating poetry is not a new idea for Durham Tech. Porter said each month there is already a poetry hour that focuses on a different theme, which usually features a particular poet or is open to students and staff to share their own poetry.

Three years ago, Durham Tech English instructor Theresa Fine-Pawsey organized the first poetry month for the school. It involved “Poem in Your Pocket Day” and faculty poetry readings, but she said the effort for poetry month has not been as strong the past three years.

“This year’s is much more focused on creating our own poetry,” Fine-Pawsey said. “The level of student involvement is going to be much bigger this time around.”

And on top of getting students involved with poetry, one of the goals is to get students excited about it.

“I think it is important to demonstrate that these things that seem elite or highly academic can be a lot of fun,” Fine-Pawsey said.

Another event to celebrate poetry is a reading by Durham Tech librarian Toshi Shonek on April 12 at 2 p.m, which is called “Grateful but not Beholden.” Shonek has published two poetry books and is in the process of publishing a third collection.

Shonek started writing poetry 10 years ago and like Porter, she finds her poetry to have an element of spontaneity.

“Writing poetry prepared me to deal with things to come, good or bad,” she said. “I don’t write every day all the time. If someone told me to sit down and write a poem I couldn’t do that. It just happens.”

Beyond the impulsiveness of her poetry, Shonek said she finds it to be a way of life.

“I wouldn’t be able to breathe and live if I didn’t write,” she said. “The urge is so strong I have to get it out. It’s that feeling of something like you need air to breathe and food to survive.”

Shonek said she considers her style to be simple, direct and personal.

“It is coming from my heart and going into someone else’s heart,” she said. “I’m not the type of person that would share things with people. But with writing poetry, I don’t hesitate.”

Locations of each of the activities will be decided closer to each scheduled event. Contact Nadiah Porter at portern@durhamtech.edu to find out the locations, and keep checking the VOICE for updates about the events!

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One thought on “Durham Tech’s poetry month shows a new side of poetry

  1. Full Frame Documentary Film Festival will be showing “To Be Heard” on Saturday, April 16th at 1:50 in the Durham Arts Council theater. It features 3 students from the South Bronx who find respite from their daily struggles when they enroll in a high school poetry class.

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