For Ivy Clarke, a double major in English and Creative Writing, poetry is a powerful way to get people’s attention.
“Poetry breaks genre and breaks rules,” Clarke said. “For a long time, marginalized people, who have not adapted to the rules or genres established by society, have used poetry as a way to share their stories.”
Clarke came to Mercer initially as a business major because she was always told that writing didn’t matter. However, she took a poetry class her second semester, fell in love, and has taken one every semester since. Clarke wanted to be a writer and also had an interest in social activism, but did not plan to combine them until coming to Mercer.
“I started thinking that if everyone is there to change the world, how can I change the world through writing. And from there, the idea of a youth-led poetry workshop was born,” Clarke said.
She first came up with the idea for the workshop at the start of first year and worked to develop the project before launching it in second year for a program in which she is called Service Scholars. The project was originally to be called “Macon Young Writers” and would hold weekly poetry workshops for local high school students.
“I wanted to create an environment where young people are encouraged to believe that their voices and their stories matter,” Clarke said. “I didn’t want to tell them what to write or what to say or put words in their mouths. I wanted them to have the resources and the privileges that I had and a platform to share their stories.
The project was to be implemented this year through a partnership with a local school. Clarke worked before her freshman year to build partnerships and apply for grants and scholarships. She was a Truman finalist, received the Newman Civic Award, and also received Mercer’s Visionary Student Pell Grant to fund the project.
She developed the program and spoke to administrators at the district level and was able to get the program approved at the administrative level. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has made things increasingly difficult. She was unable to secure a partnership with a local school as it became more difficult to communicate with teachers who were under significant stress and in-person lessons were no longer guaranteed.
“I used to say the project didn’t succeed,” Clarke said. However, a few months ago that changed.
Clarke was able to partner with two local libraries: the Washington Library, which is in the early stages of setting up a poetry club for teens, and the Shurling Library, which is currently celebrating National Poetry Month. Clarke says she hopes this partnership will be strengthened by other students and encourage local students to make their voices heard in their community.
Editor’s Note: Ivy Clarke is the current arts and culture editor at The Cluster. Clarke was not involved in the publication of this article.