| 03.24.2018

Daily dose of poetry  – UI faculty create project to bring daily poetry to campus


Imagine a machine in the Idaho Commons where a student could push a button and a slip of paper with a short poem on it would be printed out.

Devin Becker, head of data and digital services at the University of Idaho Library, said the idea could be a reality in the near future.

Becker said he has been working with UI faculty and staff members Alexandra Teague, Sarah VanGundy and Evan Williamson on a project called Vandal Poem of the Day.

“Vandal Poem of the Day publishes a contemporary poem every day through our website,” Becker said. “This way people will be able to start off their day with a poem.”

The website, poetry.lib.uidaho.edu, will post a new poem each day at around 6 a.m., Becker said.

Students can access the poetry via the website or by scanning one of the many quick response codes that Becker said will likely appear around campus over the next couple of months.

Becker said he has been working with Williamson to come up with new ways to physically exhibit the project. The experiment with the poem-printing machine is still an ongoing process, Becker said, but he hopes they will be able to carry it out.

Becker said the inspiration for the project comes from Aubie”s Poem of the Day, which run out of Auburn University in Alabama. At a conference in Moscow, he said he spoke with the people who directed Aubie”s Poem of the Day and they encouraged him to conduct a similar project.

Kira Hunter | Argonaut
Devin Becker, head of Data and Digital Services at the University of Idaho, works on the Vandal Poem project Wednesday.

“They wanted to spread the idea throughout the country so they invited us to be the second university to do it,” Becker said. “They came up with the idea and we”re just doing our version of it.”

The project is a collaboration between the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences, the UI Library, the Idaho Humanities Council and Copper Canyon Press, Becker said.

Becker said the Vandal poems are obtained from Copper Canyon Press, a nonprofit company based in Port Townsend, Washington.

Becker said Copper Canyon Press is a prestigious independent publishing company that has given permission to project coordinators to use their poetry.

“As the site builds, there will be more poems to read through so hopefully people find poets or poetry books they like,” Becker said. “There”s also a link at the bottom of each poem where you can find that book in the University of Idaho Library if you liked it.”

Copper Canyon Press let project directors use about 180 poems throughout the year, which will be mostly randomized, Becker said. When the website runs out of poems to use from Copper Canyon Press, Becker said he will try to get permission from another publishing company to continue the poetry project.

“The conversations that might be started because of Vandal Poem of the Day are really important,” Becker said. “We want to expand the audience of contemporary poetry on the University of Idaho campus and in Idaho.”

VanGundy, a reference librarian at UI, said she has been helping the project team by proofreading poems and creating the press release.

“It”s going to display some incredible big names that are cutting edge right now like C.D. Wright and Natalie Diaz,” VanGundy said.

Project organizers also plan to host a student poetry competition in the spring, VanGundy said. The winner of the competition will have their poem displayed on the project website.

“It shows that poetry doesn”t have to be this separate academic thing that we do,” VanGundy said. “The goal is to get poetry into people”s daily lives and the community.”

Jessica Gee can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @jaycgeek

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