At the City-Wide Poetry Collective launch party hosted at the Icon Lounge Event Hall on the evening of Friday, Nov. 8, the lights that were strung from the ceiling glistened, the audience was full of eager listeners and writers of all ages were able to share their poetry.
A year in the making, the City-Wide Student Poetry Collective is finally coming to Sioux Falls. Behind the project is LHS English teacher Xavier Pastrano and Sioux Falls Education Association president Tony Martinet. The launch party brought together high school poets and local published poets to read their works and discuss the future of the Poetry Collective meetings.
The launch party featured five students from LHS (Dani Koang, Timothy Stolp, Mak Highstrom, Cat Paul and Sophia Hooker) who presented their poetry. Koang took the opportunity to share her work to show that there is a wide array of poetry, despite the stereotypes that may surround the art form.
“I think that the Poetry Collective will be a really good way to open the eyes of a lot of people who don’t really know all that much about poetry,” said Koang. “Poetry isn’t just old-school Shakespeare, it’s really diverse. Poetry is a really good way to get to know more people in your area and get a feel of what is happening in the world and in the lives of those around you.”
Koang was just as excited to listen to her fellow poets present as she was to share her own poetry. She feels that a very important aspect of poetry is the opportunity to widen your worldly views and step outside of your comfort zone by listening to others.
“Poetry allows me to express myself, but I also love that it allows me to listen to what other people are going through or hear their views on the world,” said Koang. “I think that even if you don’t have an interest in poetry itself, it’s really good to hear other people around you and expand on your knowledge of diverse problems and opinions to get outside of the bubble that you live in.”
A panel of published poets, including Nebraska native Dempsey Tapley, had the opportunity to share their work with the audience and offer their expertise to help students explore their poetic potential. Tapley sees a lot of value in the outlet that poetry offers and he would like to share it with the students of Sioux Falls.
“I think sometimes having a skill set makes people feel more legitimate about having the emotions they have,” said Tapley. “If I was just to complain about my problems, I would be whiny, but because I have the skill set to write good poetry about my problems, it becomes a legitimization for my feelings. So if nothing else, I think through the Poetry Collective kids will begin to feel like their feelings are legitimate because they contribute to something beautiful. Everyone is going to die one day, and you get to choose whether to be a part of something beautiful or not. The Poetry Collective is an opportunity to be apart of something beautiful.”
Among the audience listening to the wide variety of poetry shared at the launch party was LHS sophomore Grace Dinneen. Dinneen attended the event in hopes of connecting with others through the art form, and she would like to continue to see where the Poetry Collective meetings can take her and other curious students.
“I feel like the poetry collective meetings will be a great way for me to be more emerged into this art form that I am a part of,” said Dinneen. “I have learned through poetry that there are people that have the same struggles that I do, and they are able to express them in such a beautiful way. I think that if more people were able to find a positive way like this to express bad things, there would be less stress and anxiety in the world.”
If you would like to explore poetry as a creative outlet alongside experienced educators and authors, listen to the announcements for future Poetry Collective meeting dates and times.
If you would like to hear Tapley’s poetry and see some of his other creative projects, follow him on Instagram @dempseykevintapley