Creating Community

English professor Gary Dop with Brittany Miller '14 and Grace Gardiner '15 at their poetry booth at the Lynchburg Community Market.

English professor Gary Dop with Brittany Miller ’14 and Grace Gardiner ’15 at their poetry booth at the Lynchburg Community Market.

One man walking with his dog at Lynchburg Community Market was drawn to a table with lots of papers spread out, including signs naming genres including horror, nature, love, and war.

Claudia Troyer '14, read, to a visitor's dog at the poetry booth.

Claudia Troyer ’14, read, to a visitor’s dog at the poetry booth.

At the table, a group of Randolph students asked people to read poems to them or to listen to them as they read. The man pointed to a book of dog poems and joked, “You can read to my dog.”

Claudia Troyer ’14 grabbed the book and sat on the ground. “The dog immediately came over and flopped into my lap while I read this poem about the loyalty of dogs,” Troyer said.

The poetry booth was part of the English department’s advanced creative writing class, which requires students to do something that connects writing to the local community.

“The assignment allows students to demonstrate our understanding at Randolph that writers are not limited to a desk and that the role of writers and writing often involves a meaningful relationship with a real community,” said Gary Dop, who taught the class last semester.

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Randolph students invite Community Market shoppers to read poetry and contribute to the Community Poem.

In addition to reading and listening to poems, the students invited people to contribute lines to a community-written poem. They wrote the first two lines—about a mouse and a crow in a field—and asked poetry booth visitors to add family-friendly lines utilizing words from the previous line in the poem. Halfway through, a community author wrote a line about gender roles, changing the direction of the poem dramatically.

“Several people said that we made their day,” said Dop. “People were a little surprised that we had no other motivation than to share a poem. One lady asked us twice, ‘You’re really not raising money for anything?’” Troyer, who is majoring in English with an emphasis in creative writing, was surprised by the warm reception that the community gave them. “I think more people are interested in poetry than I realized,” she said. “It was really kind of heartening to see that.”

 

Lean Together: A Lynchburg Community Poem

Over 30 contributors gave a word, a phrase, or a line at the Lynchburg Community Market on November 23, 2013

A visitor adds a line to the community poem.

A visitor adds a line to the community poem.

A gate through which we begin
begins with a crow and a mouse.
You are the wild crow, and I
the mouse moving silently through
the fields toasted white by fall’s frozen breath.
I look at you, and you at me, or through me?
Could I be more compelling than the frost?
Even though I look it, I’m not lost. I will
never be lost knowing you are
out there. Not only are you out there, but you are
in here. Only here, the gate, now closed, opens wide
to the fields. The roles of gender should never comply
to society’s influence, or they should,
or shouldn’t, or will—won’t! See how the gate
strains against the wind: the crow and the mouse
lean together into the wind. The crow soars
and the mouse runs. They both find cheese
and grapes and eat for fun. The grapes are sweet and
the cheese is ripe. The grapevine circles and climbs
the weathered wooden post. Bee like honey, my friend.
Be like the bee—fly free, my friend.
Christopher Robin and Pooh will be there.
Be like the robin, flying high, always thankful
to G-d for robins in the sky. The less one knows
the happier they will be. “Not so earnest!”
The mouse admonished and turned toward
the cheese. Beside the cheese was an inviting path
which he chose to take. “Fly away with the wisdom
of the world,” said the crow to his grass-bound friend.