When senior creative writing major Jacob Wolfe founded Pepperdine’s Poetry Society in 2015, he simply wanted to improve his writing. Poetry enabled Wolfe to find his voice, and now the Poetry Society enables others to find theirs.
“We really welcome everybody to just jump in, whatever their level be …” Wolfe said. “This community is for people that just want to write better.”
The Society, which works closely with Expressionists magazine, hosts poetry readings with visiting authors throughout the year. Around twice a month, there are two-hour workshops in which members read each other’s poems and offer feedback without the pressure of grades or the presence of faculty, said John Struloeff, associate professor of creative writing and English and faculty adviser for the Society.
“My favorite thing about poetry is writing a poem, being unsure about it, reading it to an audience and then feeling the reaction,” Struloeff said. “You have spoken to them in a way that is meaningful.”
Wolfe, now the Society’s president, begins workshops by reading published poems and then analyzing them with the members, which he believes helps them develop their own voices. Wolfe said reading published poetry helped developed his voice, too. As a child, he said he was very introverted and did not know how to express himself.
“The passion comes from the challenge and the passion comes from who I was as a kid,” Wolfe said. “Poetry gave me the words that I needed to help me find myself and the world around me.”
Struloeff, who used to solely write fiction, said he started writing poetry out of practicality. He wrote one poem every day for a year to prepare himself for working with poetry students.
“[I became] completely lost in the world of poems,” Struloeff said. “By the end of that year, I was equally a fiction writer [and] a poet. I have been ever since.”
Both Struloeff and Wolfe agree that poetry is art. Wolfe said that like painting, writing is a therapeutic process with a subjective and evocative final product.
“I see art as something that when we look at it, we recognize something deeply human within it …” Struloeff said. “Poetry is the same way. It’s just being done with words, and there’s often kind of a musical nature to those words.”
Struloeff said he appreciates how poetry offers a new glimpse of the world. Wolfe said he loves that poetry challenges him to perceive the ordinary in an unordinary way by creating a different world.
Wolfe and Struloeff encourage students who are interested in poetry to join the Poetry Society.
“We welcome everyone, even if they feel like they don’t have some kind of rigorous background in poetry,” Struloeff said. “Maybe they’ll end up having the same transformative experience that I did when I took the leap into writing poetry.”
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