“Poetry is a spoken art form, it is meant to be heard, not read,” said Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) Associate Professor, Dr Jason Polley, who visited UIC to give a workshop on found poetry, as part of the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences (DHSS) Lecture Series on 8 May. The title of his workshop was ‘Imagined Letters to Ideal Readers’.

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Many students were in attendance to hear from Dr Polley. He began his lecture by talking about what poetry is and how it should be presented. He discussed how the way we present ourselves to others is different depending on our audience, using the example that because he was speaking on a university campus, he was presenting himself in a certain way, the same way we might act differently in front of our friends versus our parents.

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Dr Polley discussed the fact that we rarely have an ‘ideal’ audience for the things we want to say, and so he wanted to give everyone the chance today to write a letter to an ‘ideal receiver’. He encouraged everyone in attendance to write about something private that they wanted to talk about but that is difficult to speak about with others. Audience members were given 20 minutes to write, most filling two or three pages getting out whatever issues were on their minds. Dr Polley then used this creative outlet as fodder to transform their letters into found poetry. Found poetry is made by using snippets and collections of words and phrases that can be assembled together and read as a poem.

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Audience members were instructed to pick out ‘pearls’, which referred to highlights from their letter, to use as inspiration for the poems. He then had the audience members transform these highlights by making them sound different to the original true meaning, which he called ‘beautifying’ or ‘uglifying’. After the highlights that everyone had collected were transformed, he had students collaborate in groups to create poetry out of their sentences. By using the students’ creative outlets of energy and then transforming them into poetry, the exercise allowed them to let out their emotions privately, and then transform their thoughts to share them poetically.

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Dr Polley described it as ‘making a jigsaw puzzle with no original design’, because the poems could still go on to be modified after they were created, depending on how the creator saw fit. Students enjoyed the workshop and the opportunity it gave them to use their creative thinking abilities to make something bigger together.

Reporter: Samantha Burns
Photographer: Ivy Liao
Editors: Samuel Burgess, Deen He
(from MPRO)