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International Reading Reveals Power of Verse

Hannah Mumm |

Poetry exists for everyone. It is enjoyed by little kids and octogenarians, billionaires and the homeless, academics and the illiterate. In every language, it is a force that educates and unites. Through verse, poets can cross borders – physical and psychological – giving intimate snapshots of the foreign and familiar to an international readership. The UW-Eau Claire faculty members heading the 11th annual International Poetry Reading recognize the cross-cultural capacity of the lyrical voice. Last year, the original organizers stepped down, threatening the end of the multilingual event. Refusing to let the program die, language professors Kelly Biers (French) and Kaishan Kong (Chinese) and English lecturer Katie Vagnino took over. “We want to include as many languages as possible, so that we can appreciate the beauty and diversity of the world’s voices,” Biers said. Similar to past events, each reader will perform a short poem – original or previously published – in any language other than modern standard English. Readings have historically featured more than 40 tongues including Spanish, Hmong, indigenous languages, and even computer languages such as Perl. The International Poetry Reading provides an opportunity for the Eau Claire community to unite under a diverse canopy of written art, fostering connections between readers and audience members. This year’s reading will take place at 7pm Wednesday, May 3, in the Dakota Ballroom of UWEC’s Davies Center. Guests will be provided with English translations to accompany the oral performances.