The development of “Poets in Person” at Benedictine

Madeline Saunders

Staff Writer

A vintage approach to literature in the modern world, “Poets in Person” developed from an inspirational idea of a twist on traditional poetry. The group at Benedictine University pursues creativity and originality from the individuals around them for an immersive writing experience. The poets write about the passerby, their own experiences, and sometimes speak with others to gain more inspiration for their poems, all done with a typewriter.

“It all started on a trip to Dallas in 2018. I was browsing with my wife in an independent bookstore, Deep Vellum Books, and the attendant asked if they could type an original poem for me while we browsed,” said Professor Gregory Ott, Director of the Writing Program and Professor at Benedictine University. “That wasn’t a poetry tradition I was familiar with, and I was impressed! And it didn’t take long to imagine the potential for such a performative experiment at Benedictine.”

The idea came to fruition in the Fall 2022 semester. Professor Ott garnered a group of passionate students and introduced them to the creative process. It has since garnered positive attention from students because of the nature of the typewriter and the creative process that comes with it.

“I appreciate that the campus community collaborates in the creative process, asking questions and making requests,” said Ott. “I’ve heard of a few profound moments shared between poets and passersby.”

“So far, I’ve had two reactions: either they wish they could get involved but they’re running to class or they are so excited and have something for me to write about,” said Molly McGraw, a student in the “Poets in Person” group. “I had some people that asked me to write two rounds of poems for each of them because they had a lot on their mind and they actually trusted me with some serious topics.”

The poets can be seen throughout campus and are open to engagement with the community. Poets in Person can be followed on Instagram @poetsinperson where select poems are available to be viewed. The process will continue into the Spring 2023 semester.