The 16th Annual International Poetry Reading Night is just around the corner, with celebrations of poetry and multiculturalism among students, staff and poets of the Eau Claire community.
Poetry lovers, or even new poets, were able to submit their poems to “promote linguistic diversity and cultural understanding”, according to Volume 1.
Kaishan Kong, an associate professor of Chinese and co-organizer of the evening, started working at UW-Eau Claire in 2014 and quickly started reading poetry in 2015 after hearing about the event itself. Kong beame co-organizer in 2017.
“When Audrey Fessler and Jeff Vahlbusch (the founders of this event) left UW-Eau Claire,” Kong said. “I became a co-organizer and reader to continue their legacy.”
Josh Bauer, Senior Web Developer at UW-Eau Claire’s Learning and Technology Services department, and fourth-year Spanish and marketing student Casey Dahl also work alongside Kong in setting up the event.
Kong said the international poetry reading event can be described as “a cultural evening” and something to celebrate cultural diversity. It seeks to honor other languages and encourage students to experience this ambiguity.
“This is an annual event dedicated to building cultural understanding through the beauty of poetry,” Kong said.
Each year, students, faculty and local residents of Eau Claire are invited to read poems in a language other than standard English. This includes over 16 different languages, including Icelandic, Chinese, Hmong, and Korean.
“We hope to raise awareness of the assortment of languages that exist and provide opportunities for poetry and language lovers to showcase their talents,” Kong said.
Bauer, Kong, and Dahl said that even when listeners don’t speak the language, the words still have meaning.
Students can come enjoy refreshments and unwind with poetry, or perhaps jump behind the mic if they feel inspired during the night. Each participant leaves with a publication of the night’s work, as well as surprise souvenirs for the road.
“We are incredibly excited and grateful to have our community members back,” Kong said. “We hope that more people will participate in this event as an audience and perhaps also as readers.”
Kong said the event was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic from previous years. In 2021, the poetry reading event was held virtually, but this year there will be a hybrid component.
According to the organization’s Facebook page, several posts housed poems each reader would have shared in the year the event was canceled. This series was titled “International Poetry Reading: Quarantine Edition”, as it took place in April 2020 during the scheduled Poetry Night.
“There is significance to the event, especially after the disruption caused by the pandemic,” Kong said. “We want to take this chance to embrace unity.”
The International Poetry Reading Night takes place virtually and in person Wednesday, April 20, 6-8 p.m., in the Ojibwe Ballroom at Davies Student Center.
Smith can be reached at [email protected].