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A new project looks to tap into the hope that comes with finally getting a COVID-19 vaccine through poetry.

The Global Vaccine Poem: Healing...One Stanza at a Time

Global Vaccine Poem image
Lauren Green
People from around the world have the opportunity to contribute to a pandemic-themed collective poem through a joint project from the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University and the University of Arizona's Poetry Center.

Kent State's Wick Poetry Center has joined with the University of Arizona's Poetry Center to offer a collaborative poem that encourages people around the world to share their feelings of the pandemic and the opportunity to finally get vaccinated through verse.

The "Global Vaccine Poem" was inspired by a decade-old Wick Poetry Center activity that allows community members to respond to one another in stanzas to create one collective poem, Director David Hassler said.

"Tyler Meier, the executive director of the University of Arizona Poetry Center, reached out to me to inquire if Wick could participate and collaborate with U. of A.," Hassler said. "He was aware of a tool that we developed several years ago with a local design firm, Each + Every, called 'thread' that invites people to read a model poem online, follow a couple prompts, very simple prompts, and then type in their own response, their own short stanzas and click submit. And by doing so, they can publish their voice on our website and participate in a growing and expanding community poem."

Hassler's and Meyer's idea was met with excitement when introduced to Naomi Shihab Nye, the Poetry Foundation's Young People's Poet Laureate. The three of them then came up with four prompts based off a poem Shihab Nye wrote during one of their meetings. People from every state in the U.S., seven continents and 51 countries responded in just less than two weeks after the soft launch of globalvaccinepoem.com.

Poetry is a powerful tool that can help us make meaning of our lives and to create a sense of belonging with one another so we don't feel that we're alone," Hassler said. "I think the cure of the vaccine is a powerful development that we're all very excited about, but I think the healing that can come from making sense of what we've been through is a great complement to that cure."

Instead of dwelling on the complexities of poetry, Hassler encourages people to see this as a way to express memories and feelings in their own words.

"As we've read so much about mental health issues and struggles during this pandemic year and continuing, there's a lot of healing that needs to be done," Hassler said. "I think this work of using language in this intentional way and sharing it with others so that we are heard is important."

A collective poem is featured on globalvaccinepoem.com, which launched Tuesday.

Hassler also hopes to continue this project into the fall with an educational aspect for local schools.

The website officially launched Apr. 6. WKSU will be airing poems from the project every Friday for the rest of the month.

Updated: April 6, 2021 at 7:00 PM EDT
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Tyler Meier's name.
Andrew Meyer is the Deputy Editor of News at Ideastream Public Media.
Kelsey Paulus is a Junior studying journalism at Kent State University. She is pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in journalism with a minor in design. Along with interning for WKSU, Kelsey is also a co-producer of TV2’s kentcore and a designer for A Magazine. She is an aspiring music journalist and hopes to work in the magazine industry someday.