Poetry Circle: Sharing Prose as a Collective

Participants in the Poetry Circle, including Arunima Singh Jamwal '19 and News editor Riley Hanna '20. Photo by Ary Hashim.

Outside of an academic setting, Lewis & Clark has lacked a space for writers to gather and discuss their writing, until now. The Poetry Circle emerged this past March, as a comfortable, judgment-free space for writers and poets to interact with each other. Shared poems range from personal work to pieces they enjoy from other writers.

Arunima Singh Jamwal ’21 and Madeleine Dodge ’21 are the creators of the Poetry Circle. Dodge felt that LC previously lacked a casual group for writers.

“It seems like this was something that was really missing on this campus, a sense of a place where people who like to write can hang out and talk about writing,” Dodge said. “So we wanted to create a space that could foster possible friendships or acquaintances.”

Dodge noted not only have writers lacked a space on campus to convene, but many writers also have the tendency to isolate themselves while they write.

“The instinct for a lot of writers is to seclude themselves, and treat writing as an individual (action), like it’s a rainy day, you take out your notebook and you go write in your room by yourself,” Dodge said. “So we wanted to put some pressure on people to challenge that idea and bring others into that experience.”

Dodge and Singh Jamwal took the Introduction to Poetry course together last fall, where they came up with the idea for the Poetry Circle. While the poetry class provided Singh Jamwal and Dodge a space to interact with the meaning behind poems and learn about technique, they wanted to create a space in which poets can interact and learn from each other.

“We recognize that the classroom poetry settings provide a certain aspect to working with poetry, but I think we wanted to provide an alternative … or a supplement to that,” Dodge said.

There are notable differences  between the Poetry Circle and a poetry class, as they wanted to create a close community which allows for poets to express vulnerability.

“At the core of this for me is community, and I recognize that’s become an empty word because we don’t know what we want to express when we say that word,” Singh Jamwal said. “But, if you come into a poetry class, the structure of the class is you’re going to get a grade for yourself at the end, and that’s the product of what you earn during this time. I think that really sets the tone for how we are able to interact with each other. When you contrast that to this club, this collective or this circle, when people come in, they’re coming in because they want to make an investment that’s not just about themselves but to offer themselves to other people.”

Singh Jamwal showed this vulnerability during an April meeting when they shared a poem written by an Indian poet. To them, it felt like an exposure of a crucial part of their identity.

“That’s offering a huge part of how I understand the world to a group of people and giving everyone the vulnerability and space to do the same,” Singh Jamwal said. “That’s why poetry is such a powerful medium to do that through.”

Amaris Bouchard ’20, a member of the Poetry Circle, expressed that the group builds a sense of togetherness.

“I really appreciate remembering that there are other people on campus that appreciate poetry and love art as much as I do,” Bouchard said. “It definitely builds community even within the hour that we have together.”

The loose structure of the Poetry Circle is intended to capture the fluidity of poetry, which is intensely individual.

“The vastness of what people bring to us even when we offer something concrete or boundaried in a sense, that is something I have observed and appreciate,” Singh Jamwal said.

Attending meetings has also provided Bouchard an opportunity to de-stress.

“I love Poetry Circle, I think it’s one of the only times I get to slow down in the week with a purpose behind it,” Bouchard said.

In the future, Dodge and Singh Jamwal hope that more people will join. The group would like to attend poetry events off-campus, collaborate with professors and have workshops with professional poets.

As of now, Poetry Circle meetings take place on either Wednesday or Thursday afternoons in various locations. If interested in joining the group, reach out to Dodge and Singh Jamwal at madeleinedodge@lclark.edu and arunima@lclark.edu.

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