Story by Sarah Olson ’26. Photos by Aurora Song ’26.
This semester in a creative writing class taught by M.K. Brake, the students read “The Gorgeous Nothings,” which was put together by scholars in 2012 to show Emily Dickinson's poems in a new light. Dickinson never really wanted to publish while she was alive, but publishers took her work anyway. She wrote in very experimental ways that were way ahead of her time. She would make little sculptures and shapes with scraps of paper and then write poems inspired by those shapes.
This was the inspiration for a project that Brake assigned her students: to “look to our campus as their kind of raw materials and take the work off the page.” Brake said some students chose places on campus that were significant to them or beautiful, and others chose places that could use a little more beauty in them. Brake said she assigned the project to show that “poetry isn't just this kind of dead thing on the page. It can take all kinds of forms and raise awareness about all the possibilities that poetry can be.”
Nami Kincaid, a 9th-grader, took a mirror and smashed it for her project. She said it represents “releasing whatever feelings you have inside.” She said that sometimes people don’t let you talk about what you feel inside, or else they will get mad at you, and then you just feel like smashing something. When she made it, she felt down and wanted to express herself. The project is hanging inside the Rhodes Art Center.
Ben Lui, a senior, chose to dedicate his poem to a tree on campus. The Dawn Redwood is an endangered conifer tree from China. It was thought to be completely extinct before it was discovered in a province in China. He said the poem and tree symbolize the immigrant experience. He used the tree shape to tackle themes of gender identity as well.
This project was a way for students to express themselves through poetry and art, and Brake said she thinks “the project turned out really beautifully.”