For Ivy Clarke, a senior double majoring in English and Creative Writing, poetry is a powerful way to get people’s attention.
“Poetry is genre-breaking and rule-breaking,” Clarke said. “Marginalized people for a long time, who have not fit into the rules or genres established by society have used poetry as a way to share their stories.”
Clarke came to Mercer initially as a business major because she was always told that writing didn’t matter. However, she took a poetry class her second semester, fell in love, and has taken one every semester since. Clarke wanted to be a writer and was also interested in social activism, but did not consider combining them until coming to Mercer.
“I started to think if everybody's here to change the world, how can I change the world through writing. And from there, the idea for a youth-led poetry workshop was born,” Clarke said.
She initially had the idea for the workshop at the beginning of freshman year and worked to develop the project before pitching it sophomore year for a program she is in called Service Scholars. The project was originally going to be called “Macon Young Writers” and would hold weekly poetry workshops for local high school students.
“I wanted to create an environment where youth are encouraged that their voices and their stories matter,” Clarke said. “I didn't want to tell them what to write or what to say or put words in their mouths. I wanted them to have the resources that I've had and privileges and a platform to share their stories.”
The project was scheduled to be implemented this year through a partnership with a local school. Clarke worked before her junior year to establish partnerships and apply for grants and scholarships. She was a Truman finalist, awarded the Newman Civic award, and also awarded the Visionary Student Pell Grant from Mercer to fund the project.
She developed the curriculum and talked to administrators on a district level and was able to get the curriculum approved on an administrative level. However, the COVID-19 pandemic made things increasingly difficult. She was not able to secure a partnership with a local school because it became harder to communicate with teachers who were under significant stress and in-person classes were no longer guaranteed.
“I used to say the project wasn’t successful,” Clarke said. However, a few months ago, this changed.
Clarke was able to establish partnerships with two local libraries: Washington Library, which is in the early stages of implementing a teen poetry club, and Shurling Library, currently celebrating National Poetry Month. Clarke says she hopes this partnership will be furthered by other students and will encourage local students to raise their voices in their community.
Editor's Note: Ivy Clarke is the current Arts & Culture Editor at The Cluster. Clarke was not involved in the publication of this article.