Echoes of Echo: An Adventure in Public Poetry

Posted by David Brown - 26 October, 2017


By Zoë Evans '18

As I pinned yet another Randolph School literary magazine Echo submission to the cork board, I felt sweat starting to pool at the waistband of my jean shorts and frustration rising in my throat. A humid Alabama day is bound tmake anyone feel irritable, but that was not really the cause of my frustration; it was the fact that in less than five minutes, most of the Upper School would pour out of the Commons doors onto the lawn and see these two boards labeled “Echoes of Echo." 

I was nervous that the missing piece, the community poem board where people were supposed to post one-word reactions to the Echo submissions, would be left blank, and that my first community poem project for my independent study would be an embarrassing and very public failure.

I first encountered the concept of public poetry over the summer when I started seeing "Instagram poets,"’ such as Cleo Wade and Rupi Kaur, pop up in various poetry articles and, not surprisingly, on Instagram. Cleo Wade has amassed a following of 276K on Instagram with her beautiful handwritten statements such as, “It is always okay to not know the answer, but it should never be because you weren’t brave enough to ask the question," signed “love Cleo.” Her handwritten poems have been posted on billboards in cities across the country. This phenomena of Instagram posts combined with billboards has made poetry more accessible and relatable to new readers across the U.S.

I realized that if more people were given the chance to freely interact with poems they might start to love poetry like I do.

Inspired by these Instagram poets, I talked with my independent study sponsor, Mrs. Elliott, about adding an element of public poetry into my independent study curriculum. The opportunity came in the form of Randolph’s first ever art week and a bundle of leftover Echo submissions that had not been published. Mrs. Elliott suggested that I arrange the Echo submissions in a way that reflected a theme and then display this board outside on the Commons during the Arts in Education celebration week. We also wanted an activity that would encourage other students to interact with my project.IMG_7181.jpg

As I was sweltering outside the Commons and putting the final touches on the board, I realized that I was not adding any of my own art to the project. I decided that if enough people posted their response words, I would turn their responses into my own poem. I came to this uneasy solution just as the bell rang and students started to trickle out onto the Commons lawn and, to my surprise, head towards my poetry boards.

After break was over, I had almost 50 people contribute words to the community poem board, bothIMG_7178-1.jpg teachers and students. People came up to me throughout the day and told me what a cool project my community poem was.

I realized that if more people were given the chance to freely interact with poems they might start to love poetry like I do. To me this is the goal of Instagram poets, such as Cleo Wade. Their poems are not particularly long nor are they extremely complex, but they bring the beauty of words and language into people’s lives who otherwise would not have experienced poetry on a daily basis.

My goal for the final part of my project was to create a poem that everyone in the Upper School could understand and relate to, an echo of their echoes. Here is the result:

Bustling and beckoning
These are the surreal noises of life:
Knowledge hopes for that fiery Lamborghini: enlightenment
Love brings a celestial power to passion
Radiant waves of deceptive memories crash relentlessly
Unknown puppets bow desperately to a mystic captain
The swag of sunrise; an amazing ray, risks everything to light the sky
Dignity and guilt our grand duality of meaning
We crave a clearly lit finish


If you want to learn more about all of the individualized opportunities that can be incorporated into a Randolph student's schedule, please contact our Admissions Office. If you would like to play a part in shaping and informing those experiences, join the Randolph Connect Program.

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Topics: clubs, independent study, poetry, social media, instagram poets

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