Recent Franke Honors alum Ally Miller was chosen as a winner for Space2Create, a poetry and digital art competition, founded by the first African American woman to pilot a spacecraft, Dr. Sian Proctor.
Miller’s winning poem, Butterflies Awaken, was a product of HNRS 216—a course she took during her time in the Franke Honors College, taught by Assistant Professor of Practice Claire McLane.
“I'm always so happy to see where students take the work that they create in the classroom out into the world. This can mean reading it to a friend, family member, or even beloved pet, submitting to contests and publications, or even sending them to outer space! This allows students to really feel the scope and impact their poetry can have,” reflected McLane.
Living, Breathing Poetry
McLane’s class, HNRS 216: An Encounter with Poets and their Poetry, has been intentionally breaking down barriers and preexisting assumptions that might make students feel intimidated or discouraged from exploring poetry further. HNRS 216 is upending the assumption that poets and poetry are limited to the canon of old dead white men and instead presents students with the works of contemporary poets of diverse cultural backgrounds and perspectives. Many of the themes that students explore throughout the semester include topics related to justice, accessibility, inclusion, and equity.
“Before this course, I admit, I had never taken a poetry class. Really, I’ve never taken any college-level creative writing classes, and so I had no prior assumptions as to how enrolling in one might go. Needless to say, I am profoundly grateful I did, as it has genuinely been one of my most engaging classes all semester,” said Conner Tankersley, a student in HNRS 216.
Every week, students from McLane’s class visit the University of Arizona Poetry Center to witness live works from poets as a part of the UA Poetry Center yearly reading series. They have the opportunity to visit a cutting-edge institution of poetry, as well as read books, attend public readings, and in many cases, have up-close conversation with the visiting poets.
“I love that my students get to hear from these poets and can say this poet looks like me and has had similar life experiences as me…it’s really transformative,” said McLane.
McLane describes HNRS 216 as dynamic, including varying exercises of reading, writing, and discussion centered around the writings of these poets.
Most recently, McLane’s class had the privilege of hearing works from Rita Dove, a former U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winning writer.
“...me and my peers were able to ask her all about her career in the industry. It’s an unparalleled opportunity, and one I doubt I would have gotten in any other course,” said Tankersley.
Other poets that students have encountered have also included Ocean Vuong, Sandra Cisneros, Jericho Brown, Sam Sax, Shayla Lawz, Aria Aber, and Victoria Chang.
All Are Welcome Here
The Honors journey is inherently interdisciplinary, and this class is no exception. In fact, most of McLane's students come from non-humanities backgrounds, bringing knowledge of engineering, sciences, medicine, and everything in between into the class conversation. McLane has created a wonder-filled space in HNRS 216—one where students can explore ideas, share differing perspectives, dig into feelings, and poeticize their personal experience.
One of McLane’s students, Isabel Hererra, shares her perspective on HNRS 216.
Through poetry, of course.
“Poetry has been like a double edge sword. Some days it flows through you and other days it seems to work against you. At least that's what it feels like some days, however, the structure of a class based around this delicate and free-spirited art has lowered the blades per se. Allowing oneself to truly take matters into their own hands and push the boundaries of their inner circle. Here we have a community, a group where we all stand on common ground and support each other through the thick and thin. We are poets, and together we learn and adapt our own craft to being better writers and witnesses to the rampaging world around us.” - Isabel Hererra