A&E Community Features

PLNU Poetry Scene Thriving Despite COVID-19

Professor Manning and students gathered for an after hours poetry reading at Ryan Library in 2019 pre quarantine. Photo courtesy of Katie Manning.

According to a poll from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2018, the number of people reading poetry in the U.S. doubled in the last decade. Poetry slams, open mics and poetry publications have become more prevalent, especially in larger cities. The San Diego poetry scene is evidence of that, with a strong pulse which continues to beat through the PLNU campus as well, despite COVID-19.

The fall semester is still full of poetry events, only in a virtual setting. On September 9, PLNU hosted the annual Driftwood Open Mic reading on Zoom. Driftwood is the school’s literary magazine, resurrected in the 1980s with more than two decades of publication. On Sept. 24, the Literature, Journalism, Writing and Languages department will host its annual Poetry Day and on Nov. 2, Katie Manning, a PLNU professor of writing, will host Poetry on Point, an open mic for faculty. Manning also hosts a routine writing group on Zoom called Writers Gonna Write for students. 

Writers Gonna Write an online writing group for students is now hosted on Zoom. Photo courtesy of Katie Manning.

Manning, who is also the faculty advisor for the Driftwood Open Mic, said the school has been hosting the latter event long before poetry made its recent comeback. 

“Poetry Day is in its 22nd year,” Manning said. “It was started by Dr. Carol Blessing, who just retired, and I started organizing and hosting it in 2015.” 

The university is full of teachers, staff and students who help create and contribute to PLNU’s poetry scene. Manning is just one of many instructors at PLNU who loves and writes poetry, which was her motivation to create Poetry on Point. She began this event in 2016, where faculty, administrators and staff from all disciplines share their work. 

“We’ve got secret…and some not-so-secret…poets hiding out in every discipline within the LJWL department and also several in SOTCM (School of Theology and Christian Ministry), biology, math, sociology,” Manning said. “I love that so many people on campus are writing poems!”

One not-so-secret poet is Margarita Pintado, associate professor of Spanish at PLNU. She has been published in journals and book anthologies in the U.S., Spain and Latin America. 

She authored two books, “Ficción de venado”, or “Fiction of the Deer,” and “Una muchacha que se parece a mí,” or “A Girl Who Looks Like Me.” She is also the winner of the Poetry Award given by the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña. 

She said her love for poetry stems from her desire to share her love for the world, but also from what it gives her in return. 

“Like any other artistic expression, poetry can fulfill some of our emotional and spiritual needs,” Pintado said. “Poetry has helped me be more present and more reflective, more intentionally aware of my relation to the environment, the people, the words, that surround me.”

Pintado hopes to share these insights with her students, so she includes poetry as part of her teaching curriculum. However, she encourages students to explore poetry outside of assigned class readings as well.  

“Ask your professors for recommendations, get into it,” Pintado said. 

Bettina Tate Pedersen, professor of literature and women’s studies at PLNU, is also a published faculty member, with work appearing in nearly every Driftwood for the past 20 years, in the online journal, Whale Road Review and in the San Diego Union-Tribune. She encourages students to cultivate an appreciation for the poetry surrounding them. 

“Poetry will be part of their lives at the most significant events and experiences. Both joyous times and sorrowful times,” Pedersen said. “We sing poems in our worship, we read poems in the Psalms…poetry brings consolation to us in our times of greatest grief, individually and communally.” 

Students share their poetry at an after hours poetry event at Ryan Library in 2019, pre quarantine. Photo courtesy of Katie Manning.

PLNU senior writing major and student poet, Sydney Kay, agrees an appreciation of poetry can help one navigate life.  

“It trains me to find beauty and poetry in the everyday, mundane tasks of life,” Kay said. “It helps me cope with life’s struggles, and it challenges me to look at things differently.”

Kay has taken many poetry and writing classes and participated in open mic readings at PLNU. As a poet, she said the university could do more to bolster its poetry scene.

“There’s plenty of poets out there and not a real outlet for them,” Kay said. “The Driftwood is the only place I can think of where people can submit poetry and attend an open mic night, but it could be cool to see a strictly poetry version of a literary journal on campus.” 

Manning, who said she plans to continue to help poetry thrive at PLNU, also said the power of poetry will ensure it thrives whether bolstered by the school or not.

“Poetry thrives beyond the educational system,” Manning said. “It doesn’t need the system to stay alive, but I think that the educational system does need poetry. We’re all better off in spaces where poetry is valued.”  

Written By: Amber Robinson