Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures
Poetry and Professional Writing: PW professor and students create public poetry exhibition
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Dr. Nancy DeJoy is introduced at her poetry opening on February 7th, 2016.

Written by Suzanna Smentowski

Photo by Peter Johnston

As Professional Writing students, we have many opportunities to put our skills to work outside the classroom. Sometimes these opportunities open doors to paths we never thought we would take.

This past fall, my WRA 491 professor, Dr. Nancy DeJoy, told my class that she was looking for a student to help her to organize her poetry exhibition the following semester. She talked about wanting to create interactive poetry and wanted help selecting and formatting the final poems for the exhibit.

I’ve never been overly interested in poetry, but working with a professor sounded like a good experience to help build my resume. After expressing my interest in the project, Dr. DeJoy invited me to work with her. From then on we met once a week and began creating the exhibit. I did research on public art and the use of poetry and read Dr. DeJoy’s poems as she presented them to me.

With the help of Maggie Hermanson, a senior Professional Writing and Arts and Humanities major and a Museum Studies minor, we were able to analyze the purpose and story behind the final group of poems. We focused on the theme of the gallery exhibition, “Counting Backwards,” to help present the life of Dr. DeJoy through her poems.

From a PW standpoint, I learned about creating and editing poetry for a very public audience. Because I was working to help format the poems to be framed, I also learned how to work with InDesign, which has helped me format designs I create in my PW classes. I also applied some of what I am learning in WRA 360 (Visual Rhetoric) when aligning the designs of the various poems and deciding on the best fonts to use.

On Sunday, February 7th, the exhibition successfully opened in the gallery space at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center. This project has provided me with valuable work experience and opened the door to new opportunities. In April, I will be presenting my research on poetry and public art at the annual University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF). That same month, I will be presenting a proposal for a public poetry project to MSU’s Public Art on Campus Committee (PAOCC), based on the work I have done with Dr. DeJoy.

Dr. Nancy DeJoy’s poetry show is open for public viewing at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center until March 2nd. For gallery hours, visit www.cityofeastlansing.com/353/Public-Art-Gallery.