Poetry Matters at USF

National Poetry Month is cause for major celebrating with readings, workshops, a film screening and more.


By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (March 28, 2012) – If National Poetry Month at the University of South Florida is not the largest event of its kind this year – in Florida or the nation – Jay Hopler will be surprised. All the ingredients are there.    


The USF Humanities Institute’s annual celebration features twelve poets, seven major readings, two major lectures, four poetry workshops, one organic potluck lunch/supper in the USF Botanical Gardens Poetry Garden, a day of performance art/spoken word/poetry reading in the Poetry Garden, a photography showcase and the launching of the new NPM@USF website.


…and President Genshaft’s favorite poem is….


Learn a person’s favorite poem and you might get to know that person a little bit better. With Poetry Matters at USF you’ll get to know USF President Judy Genshaft, Provost Ralph Wilcox, Coach Skip Holtz and colleagues all over campus and possibly discover you have something in common or make friends with a poem you never heard of before. The Humanities Institute’s new initiative begins with President Genshaft’s selection on April 2. Hers and all those that follow will have an explanation of why that poem matters in a personal way. Visit daily: http://humanities-institute.usf.edu/poetry/ and “Like” the Humanities Institute Facebook page where you’ll find updates.

And in a brand new initiative, the institute is launching “Poetry Matters at USF,” an interactive web project that features poems chosen by USF notables, with each explaining what their poems means to them. Humanities Institute Director Elizabeth Bird observes, “poetry is relevant to everyone; poems touch our hearts like no other literary form, and they stay with us for life.” 


Participants include President Judy Genshaft, Board of Trustees Chair John Ramil, Provost Ralph Wilcox, Coach Skip Holtz, former Tampa Mayor (and USF alumna) Pam Iorio, as well as faculty, students and staff from across the university. A different poem is featured for each day of April. “Some of the choices may surprise you!” says Bird.


According to Hopler, an associate professor of English, “we need poetry now more than ever.” Author of the award-winning book of poetry Green Squall, Hopler teaches courses in creative writing and poetry and is the 2010-2011 recipient of a Rome Fellowship in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters/the American Academy in Rome and the 2009 Whiting Writers’ Award, He and Humanities Institute Program Assistant Elizabeth Kicak brought together all the visiting poets.


"That the University of South Florida is presenting one of the largest National Poetry Month celebrations anywhere in the country just a few short years after starting its first Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program is certainly cause for celebration,” Hopler said. “That USF could reach this important milestone at a time when education budgets are being cut almost daily and the arts seem under attack from every corner is a testament to the passion and the commitment of everyone involved: USF's amazing faculty and staff, our generous donors and sponsors and the poets who've all agreed to read their poetry, lead workshops and teach seminars for free.”


The established poets in the lineup are impressive. Melanie Hubbard will read at 7 p.m. on the opening day, April 2 and lecture at noon the following day.  Erica Dawson of the University of Tampa will read that Wednesday and will conduct a workshop the next day.


The following two weeks feature poetry readings and workshops with Eckerd College’s Helen Wallace, Florida State University’s James Kimbrell and Kenyon College’s Jennifer Clarvoe.  Individual poetry readings are scheduled with John Blair, (Texas State University) and Guyanese “yogic realism” poet Sesenarine Persaud.


An all-day event on April 24, “The Future is Sustainable: Poetry, Place & Food” features noted environmental essayist Scott Russell Sanders. And at Felicitous Coffee House April 21 at 7:30 p.m., USF Creative Writing graduate students include a poetry reading in “6X6 Presents PAM Meets JAM” in celebration of both NPM and Jazz Appreciation Month.


Though not a USF-sponsored event, Hopler will read poetry at the Poetry and Jazz Fest being held at the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library April 15 from 2 to 4 p.m.  


National Poetry Month 2012 is sponsored by the Humanities Institute, and made possible by grants and generous donations from the USF Department of English, Florida Books Awards, the Florida Humanities Council, the USF Botanical Gardens, the USF Office of Sustainability and poetry lovers throughout the USF and Tampa Bay communities.   


“One of the things I love the most about USF is its dedication to the arts, to its students and to the community.  This grand, month-long series of poetry events is just the latest example of that dedication.  I am intensely proud to be even a small part of it,” said Hopler.


For more information, visit: http://humanities-institute.usf.edu/events/poetry.aspx.


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.