In Focus: CLC’s “Verse Like Water” Brings Renowned Poets To Brainerd Lakes Area
For Jeff Johnson, poetry is more than just words on a piece of paper.
“Poetry, for me, it’s an experience with language. You get to inhabit something made of words,” said Verse Like Water founder Jeff Johnson. “I just fell in love with it when I was a little boy and I’ve never looked back.”
That’s why he started the Verse Like Water series eight years ago at Central Lakes College.
“I was lonesome for a series that I ran at my old high school and I love water and I love poetry, and so to create the title I just crafted a little simile,” added Johnson.
Verse Like Water brings in poets from around the world who represent all varieties of ages, backgrounds, and stories.
“All the poets bring something really unique to the college. Even though the poet is only here for a day, we will continue to have conversations about him and about what he was trying to do with his language all the way through Christmas,” said Adam Marcotte, CLC English faculty member.
This week, to kick off the series for the 2019/2020 school year, Iranian-American poet Kaveh Akbar spoke to a packed Chalberg Theatre. The Verse Like Water series is unique because it introduces renowned poetry and the poets themselves to students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to experience it.
“The students don’t often get to see tier-one level poets. They don’t get to see the kinds of people who will soon be in their textbooks,” added Marcotte. “They get to come and see and talk with a living, breathing poet and it reinforces the idea that poetry is something that could be in their lives.”
For the organizers of the Verse Like Water series, it is rewarding not only to be able to meet and hear from renowned poets, but to see how it has a way of changing the students’ perspectives.
“For me, one of the vivid pleasures event after event is watching particularly young people walk in uninitiated, not really having any idea what’s about to happen and they are sometimes inspired to tears,” Johnson said.
“We’re grateful that we have this in our common experience, that it’s a couple of hundred feet from my office,” said Marcotte. “It’s right here. It’s alive and it makes a difference.”