‘What’s New in Poetry’ To End this December

After 12 years, 110 events and more than 300 readers, “What’s New in Poetry” will end this December, program founder and Senior Director of Campus Life Technology and Bookstore Relations Bruce Covey announced in late August. (Editor’s Note: Bruce Covey is the faculty advisor for The Emory Wheel.)

“What’s New in Poetry” is a monthly poetry reading funded by Barnes & Noble at Emory and the Hightower Fund, which provides finances to bring outstanding visiting lecturers to Emory. Each month, “What’s New in Poetry” flies three to four poets to Atlanta for their poetry readings.

In an email to the Wheel, Covey expressed that he was, “both sad and relieved” about the cancellation.

He wrote that the series took a ton of energy and time — energy and time which he is now able to direct towards work on his own writing. He has a book out, Change Machine, which just won a Creative Loafing “Best of Atlanta” prize, and Covey is the founding editor of a poetry magazine and book publisher, Coconut Poetry.

“I’m thrilled with what we were able to accomplish,” Covey wrote. “The series was nationally recognized as one of the best and longest-running series in the country.”

However, Covey recognizes that 12 years is a long time for a reading series, and he wrote that it seemed as though “we’d run our course, and I was out of energy.”

Dana Sokolowski, a College senior and student in the Creative Writing program, had similar thoughts on the programs cancellation. Sokolowski works in the Bookstore Liaison’s Office, an Emory office that partners with the bookstore and sponsors numerous events each semester, assisting Covey. She also designs flyers for the series.

“It’s sad,” she said about the cancellation of the series, noting that attendance has been dwindling recently.

However, Sokolowski also sees this as an opportunity to start something new.

“We are thinking about other events we can do,” she said. “This is definitely not the end of poetry at Emory.”

Sokolowski said that this could be an opportunity to have a fresh start with a new event after so many years of using the same format.

Two readings have already taken place this semester and “What’s New in Poetry” will feature three more readings before it ends in December. Claudia Rankine, an American poet and playwright as well as an English professor at Pomona College (California), will be the last poet to read for the series on Dec. 4.

According to Sokolowski, there is no event on campus right now that fills the gap left by the departure of “What’s New in Poetry.” The Creative Writing program brings in some readers every semester, and some organizations sponsor readers, but there will no longer be a consistent monthly reading series.

College senior Adria DiGiovanni wrote in an email to the Wheel that What’s New in Poetry” was “a great way for students and people of the local community to gather and get exposure to contemporary poets.”

She wrote that she loved the informal environment of the events. The casual conversation that would occur between students and poets is something that is harder to achieve with the bigger names in poetry when they visit Emory, according to DiGiovanni.

And this is exactly why Covey created the series in the first place.

Covey’s students felt that they couldn’t relate to some of the well-established poets brought in by the Creative Writing program because they didn’t have anything in common with them, according to Covey. He also wrote that he saw an opportunity to introduce students to writers who were closer to them in age as well as relatable, friendly, brilliant and at the beginning of their careers.

DiGiovanni experienced this connection with the poets. For the future, DiGiovanni hopes that Emory students and others of the arts will band together to start new events and to share and bounce off of each other’s creativity, and she believes that the life of the arts at Emory depends on this type of collaboration.

“I felt like I could connect with these poets just trying to do what they love … it was an event for people to gather and hear poetry — to enjoy all its music that can’t be heard on the page,” DiGiovanni wrote.

— By Annie McGrew, Staff Writer