The following article was written by BPP intern Adam Brunner for his Journalism class, covering our Fall 2013 reading event. We thought it really showed what the Binghamton Poetry Project is trying to do, so Adam’s letting us put here on the blog. Thanks, Adam!
Room 149 in Binghamton University’s Science Building 1 is normally reserved for college students and their professors. But on Nov. 22, the medium-sized classroom was packed with a mix of university people and local residents.
The occasion? A poetry reading by the attendees of the Binghamton Poetry Project, or BPP, a program in which college staff and graduate students run poetry workshops in the Binghamton area.
The BPP was founded in 2011 by Nicole Santalucia, a Binghamton native and grad student, who said she held the reading on the Binghamton campus to “connect the university and the community.”
To this end, the BPP is sponsored by both the university and the Broome County Arts Council, among other grant donors.
“I think the town often feels that it’s overrun by students,” said Santalucia. “We were in the community, and we wanted to make the community feel welcome.”
The evening, hosted by Santalucia’s BPP co-director Abby Murray, included a broad range of poems, covering such topics as the Susquehanna River, children’s views of the world, adolescent love, and decades-old memories.
Millicent “Penny” Hust, 86, the oldest reader in the project, was the first to read.
“I’m just like your old hound dog,” announced Hust, who had read at previous BPP readings, with a smile. “You pat me, you can’t get rid of me.”
Hust was one of three readers from the Northern Broome County/Mary Wilcox Library workshop. After a downward adjustment of the microphone came three young poets of the Broome County Library Children’s Workshop, who were received with many “aws” and much applause from the audience.
The microphone was raised up again for Riley Huntington, a Binghamton University junior who had won a poetry contest run by Harpur Palate, Binghamton’s graduate literary magazine. This new addition to the BPP reading, having a Binghamton student read, was meant to deepen the connection between the students and the locals.
“The idea is that students should feel honored to be reading with the community,” said Santalucia, “rather than vice-versa.”
The Broome County Library Adult’s Workshop included a poet as young as 13-year-old Declan Houlihan. It also included Sharon Bryant, a professor of sociology at Binghamton.
“The workshops are absolutely wonderful,” said Bryant. Her young son Ibny Xian Crookson had read with the Broome County Library Children’s Workshop. “What a great way for children and parents to connect.”
“The teachers really make a big difference,” said Kit Hartman of Apalachin, another reader from the Broome Adult’s Workshop. “They make us keep wanting to come back.”
This was Hartman’s third reading with the BPP.
After the adults came the adolescent poets of the Oasis After-School workshop at the Broome County Boys and Girls Club.
“I enjoyed watching the teens who had workshopped with me read,” said Heather Dorn, 36, who had run the Oasis workshop. “There is something especially rewarding about seeing the group you work with complete a workshop cycle.”
Ph.D. student Tara Betts closed the night by reading some poems written at her BPP workshop at the local YWCA, bringing the wide-ranging line of poems to an end.
“The event asks diverse voices to talk to each other through poetry,” said Dorn. “Each venue has its own voice, and it is exciting when they come together at last.”