Poetry in the Museum: A contest for poets

Maria Fazal

Maria Fazal, Staff Reporter

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is cosponsoring this year’s “Poetry in the Museum” contest with Case Western Reserve University’s Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities. Accordingly, this year’s theme is “The Nature of Nature.”

According to Administrative Director of the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities Maggie Kaminski, this year marks the fifth “Poetry in the Museum” event. For the first two years, the event was held at the Cleveland Botanical Garden, and then took place at Cleveland Museum of Art in the subsequent years. This will be the first time the event will be held at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Poets of high school age and above were welcome to participate, with those in high school being judged in a separate category. Aspiring poets submitted their entries on March 14. This year, a record-breaking number of over 250 entries were submitted. Several of these entries were from CWRU students and faculty.

The open-ended character of the contest allows poets to explore not only themselves, but also investigate the beauty and enigma that is the natural world. Fortunately, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History is certainly not lacking in stimulating inspiration.

Poets were encouraged to take advantage of the museum’s extensive resources and were invited to “visit a specific collection/exhibition—fossil, fish, birds, stars, dinosaurs, rocks, human evolution—or participate in one of the many field trips led by Cleveland Museum of Natural History staff.”

Each poet was permitted to submit up to three poems, and their entire entries could not surpass 10 pages. The poems themselves did not contain the poets’ names and were assigned numbers for blind judging to ensure impartiality.

The judges, all renowned poets, are M.L. Smoker, David Hassler and Emily Wilson. The “Poetry in the Museum” event will feature readings by these poets and Mandy Broaddus.
Hassler is an award-winning author and poet. He is also the director of the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University. Additionally, he has been awarded Ohio Poet of the Year and has published two poetry collections, authored several nonfiction books and coedited multiple others.

Wilson has also been published and attended the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. Furthermore, she received a creative fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and designs and prints letterpress books under the imprint, Spurwink Press.

Native American poet Smoker is a member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux tribes in Montana and is the Director of Indian Education for the Montana Office of Public Instruction. She has also had a collection of poetry published and co-edited an anthology of human rights poetry with Melissa Kwasny entitled, “I Go to the Ruined Place.”

These judges will attend and speak at the “Poetry in the Museum” event. However, they will first announce the winners, who will share their poems with the audience. The winners will receive prize packages assembled by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities.

Winners will be notified by March 28. The “Poetry in the Museum” event will be held on April 6 from 1:30-3 p.m. at the Rare Books Room in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Entrance to the museum is free for those who have registered for the event. Registration may be completed online or by calling the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at 216-368-2242.