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Olivia Cobb, a junior studying English, reads poetry during Donkey's Designated Space poetry night on March 28, 2017.

Athens provides poets with multiple outlets and opportunities to perform

Poetry is the oldest form of literature and poets from Homer to Shakespeare have always been vital to the society of the time.

In the digital age, poetry and spoken word is easier than ever to share and publish, and the Athens poetry scene is taking advantage of the opportunity.

Riley Doherty, a sophomore studying political science, hosts Designated Space at Donkey Coffee every Tuesday night, a place where everyone is welcome to come and share their poetry, stories and thoughts.

“(Designated Space) is a good place for beginners and people who have been in the community forever to come and share and feel like they're a part of something,” Doherty said.

Doherty moderates the evening, picks the order of readers and gives feedback to those performing. The crowd is also encouraged to make comments and criticism.

DeMarius Rodgers, a freshman studying integrated social studies, reads every Tuesday at Designated Space and sees poetry as a therapeutic act.

“I could be in a real funk, and then I’ll sit down to write and I’ll instantly feel better about myself and what I’m doing,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers is also a member of The F-Word Performers, a feminist performing arts group on campus. The group’s performances are not limited to poetry and include music and dancing.

Ohio University offers multiple courses involving poetry, creative writing and analyzing literature.

“When I’m teaching (poetry), one of my main goals is to expose students to as many different kinds of poetry as possible,” Brian McAllister, a visiting assistant professor, said.

McAllister believes there is heightened attention in poetry to every word that creates opportunities for innovation.

“(Poetry is) different from prose in the way that it uses language,” McAllister said. “We’re more focused on the specific words employed and how they relate to one another.”

McAllister sees there are many opportunities for people who write poetry in Athens, no matter the level of interest.

“(Athens provides) lots of opportunities to enter into a poetic community, either through graduate program, or creative writing events or community events,” McAllister said.

Hannah Pemberton, a sophomore studying creative writing, also performs at Designated Space. Pemberton has been writing poetry for nearly two years now, and says she couldn’t imagine her life without it.

“If I have something that’s stuck in my mind, it gives me an outlet for it,” Pemberton said. “It’s a great way to build relationships and communicate your deepest thoughts and feelings.”

Pemberton has a book of poetry coming out in the summer, that will be self-published.

“We’re working on photography right now and then after that it’s done,” Pemberton said. “It’s called Usually Depressing, Memoirs of a Bipolar Girl.”

Pemberton believes poetry is beginning to grow, especially through the internet. Button Poetry and other videos of performances are often shared through social media. McAllister believes that poetry, especially spoken word, offers a space with face-to-face communication and a different situation compared to a digital environment.

“(Poetry is) diverse in the way that there’s all levels of skill, and all levels of style,” Doherty said. “There are people that write more for the page ... and there’s people whose poetry is very performance based, so reading it isn’t the same as seeing them reading it to you.”

Doherty thinks poetry is the natural form of human expression, and even the mundane conversation is still poetry.

“I think my favorite thing about it is it's so intuitive and so accessible for everyone,” Doherty said. “I think that anyone that tries to put really strict rules on poetry is completely misinterpreting it. I think the fact that it’s so natural is its best quality.”


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