DH: As one of the leading poetry centers in the United States, Wick has many roles in the university and community. You’re right—we’re not a press. We’ve been very fortunate to have a fantastic relationship with the Kent State University Press who each year publishes the winners of the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize and the Chapbook Competition for Ohio Poets. We take great pride in working toward our mission of encouraging new voices and promoting opportunities for individuals and communities locally, regionally, and nationally. We also aim to engage emerging and established poets and poetry audiences through readings, publications, workshops, and scholarship opportunities.
Another project of ours is Traveling Stanzas, a collaboration between the Wick Poetry Center and Glyphix design studio at Kent State. The award-winning series, now in its fourth year, combines the creative talents of KSU Visual Communication Design students with established poets, student writers (grades 3-12), health care providers, patients and veterans to encourage dialogue about the connection between art, writing and healing.
KS: How do you stay involved once the book is in hand?
DH: As I mentioned, the Kent State University Press publishes the winning manuscripts of our first book and chapbook series; I serve as the series editor for the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize along with the judge. And Catherine Wing serves as the series editor for the Chapbook Competition for Ohio Poets. We also really value our Wick authors and judges, and try to follow their careers after Wick. One of the unique things about the first book contest is that not only does KSU Press publish the winning manuscript, but we also bring the winning poet and judge to give a reading on campus the fall that their book is released. The winner stays in Kent for a week and leads a poetry workshop for undergraduate students at Kent State. We similarly showcase our wonderful chapbook winners, by bringing both the student winner and open winner to give a reading on campus and meet with classes.
KS: Is there a Wick aesthetic?
DH: No. Our First Book contest is judged each year by a different nationally prominent poet. These final judges have a wide range of aesthetics which is reflected in our series. Similarly, the Wick Chapbook series also has a terrific range of styles in its authors.
KS: The story of your conception is heartbreaking and also wonderful.
DH: Yes, the Wick Poetry Center is a memorial program that was established out of a deep family loss. Robert and Walter Wick each lost their oldest teenage sons, Stan and Tom, in car accidents seven years apart. In 1984, Robert and Walter established a Wick poetry scholarship at Kent State in memory of their sons. When Maggie Anderson was hired to teach poetry at Kent State in 1989, she took notice of this endowment and began to grow the program, creating a reading series first, and then an Ohio chapbook contest and a national First Book contest. It has continued to evolve and grow and expand over the years with the enthusiastic support and active participation of the Wick family. Robert and Walter often say that the work of the Wick Center transforms their unspeakable loss into a meaningful gain for so many other emerging writers who are given opportunities that Stan and Tom could not have.
KS: You have an anniversary coming up!
DH: It’s hard to believe, but we have our 30th anniversary coming up next year. Our planning committee is beginning to meet and brainstorm ideas for making it a truly poetic weekend! We will be inviting back to Kent as many former judges, Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize-winners, and chapbook winners that can make the trip to Ohio in the fall of 2014. Among them are former U.S. Poet Laureates, acclaimed teachers and arts administrators, professors and students of subjects far and wide. We are planning readings, lectures, and other celebratory events, so stay tuned! And to make the celebrations even more spectacular, we will be able to host many of the events in our new location and park on the University esplanade in the newly revitalized downtown Kent.
KS: Who are the people making Wick work? What kinds of thing have Wick students and interns gone on to do?DH: As it has been for years, Wick’s success is bolstered by an array of talented staff, graduate fellows, interns, and collaborators at the university and surrounding community. I was fortunate to follow in the footsteps of our renowned first captain, Maggie Anderson. And since then have built a robust team with strengths in business, communications, creative writing, outreach and digital initiatives, etc., who all work tirelessly toward our center’s mission of bringing poetry from acclaimed writers and everyday people to the masses.
Wick students and interns have gone on to a range of careers in not-for-profit arts administration, and teaching and administration in primary and higher education. Many are published authors. I couldn’t be more proud of my teams past and present.
KS: How did you get involved with the Poetry Center?
DH: I was first given encouragement and support from Wick, just as so many other emerging writers. I was lucky to win the Ohio chapbook contest while I was an MFA student at Bowling Green State University. The publication of my chapbook, Sabisihi: poems from Japan was hugely important in my career because it got me a job working for the Ohio Arts Council as a poet-in-the-schools the following year. I spent ten years driving around Ohio teaching poetry residencies for all ages in all different kinds of schools and communities. That experience was invaluable to me, and in the late 90s Maggie Anderson contracted me part-time to develop an outreach program for Wick. In 2004, I was hired full-time as the Program and Outreach Director.
KS: A friend recently noted that there is a strong creative writing force in Ohio, and I’d noticed that about other places that might seem unlikely – Iowa, Kentucky, Alabama – but had taken my own state for granted. Do you have any theories about why there is so much good writing coming out of Ohio?
DH: I think Kent and northeast Ohio in general is a place of deep listening and creative force that perhaps has been fed and charged by the wounds we have sustained as a community: the May 4th shootings in 1970, the Cuyahoga River catching fire in 1969 in Cleveland, and other struggles within our communities. I don’t know for sure, but it seems like art, not just writing, but all forms of art, is so often an attempt to make sense out of what troubles us. There seems to be a deep conscience in this area. It’s fertile ground for poetry and all art. That, and, of course, our cloudy skies. We have to rely on our inner resources, our “inner weather.”
KS: Any dreams or future projects in the pipeline?
DH: As a matter of fact, yes—the Wick Poetry Center is embarking on perhaps its most exciting era yet! We are in the process of relocating onto the University Esplanade close to an exciting, revived downtown Kent and adjacent to a new park that will showcase community voices and serve as an outdoor gathering space. The proposed new location for the Wick Poetry Center is a historic home and former residence of Kent State’s first female faculty member, informally called the “May Prentice House.” The University is relocating the house onto the new esplanade, which weaves through the university and connects to downtown Kent.
Another exciting feature of our relocation is an interactive "poetry park" that will sit adjacent to our new home. This inviting green space will be centrally located on the esplanade and will feature an outdoor gallery which will showcase the award-winning Traveling Stanzas posters; and also serve as a gathering space for quiet reflection or public events, performances, and classroom visits. As a community landmark, the poetry park will be a source of great pride for town and gown and become a destination point for community members, local schools’ writing classes, and participants in poetry writing outreach programs.
Karen Schubert's work appears or is forthcoming in MiPOesias, quickly, Ohio Poetry Anthology, Conte and others. She is the recipient of a 2012 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, and a 2013 residency at Headlands Center for the Arts. Her third chapbook I Left My Wings on a Chair won the Wick Poetry Center chapbook contest and is forthcoming from Kent State Press in 2014. She teaches English at Youngstown State.