New poetry society on campus brings artistic students together



Brenna Fallows

Eileen Kelly has always been interested in writing. A Long Beach, N.Y., native, Kelly’s high school’s four-year writing program gave her the opportunity to edit and submit to a renowned literary magazine. Now a senior pursuing a major in communication with a minor in English at the University, Kelly hasn’t been particularly impressed with the scope of Villanova’s extracurricular and academic Arts offerings. She’s decided to take that matter into her own hands and create an environment where students can read, write and edit poetry together. 

Along with Amanda Eliades, a senior English major and theology and honors minor, Kelly has co-founded the Villanova Poetry Society, new on campus this semester. 

Last spring, Kelly wrote an opinion piece for The Villanovan that shows how passionately she feels now about the importance of Fine Arts education. Many of the arts requirements at the University are strictly academic, she insists. Lacking a hands-on approach in a studio environment, these classes are not always conducive to creativity. In her article, she asserts, “The creative process of making works of art is the very essence of art and is the most absent aspect of art on this campus. Hopefully, that will soon change.”

The incorporation of the Poetry Society is a step in the direction of that change. Important artistic outlets like literary magazines, Arthology and Polis, already exist on campus, so the Society seeks to accentuate and expand the variety of offerings for students who are artistically inclined. For Kelly, that means everyone.

“I think it’s our duty as college students at a liberal arts university to foster the growth of the whole student, which must include nourishing the artistic inclinations of the soul,” Kelly said.

It wasn’t until Kelly participated in a poetry slam event in Belle Aire Terrace last year that she knew exactly how she wanted to manifest these inclinations. Guest poet Gayle Danley’s performance moved her and reinforced the potential for artistic expression in this form. Eliades, too, has a new found love of slam poetry. The club has since taken on Professor Lisa Sewell of the English department as an advisor. Sewell taught Kelly in a poetry reading class and also offers classes in poetry writing. 

University President Rev. Peter Donahue, O.S.A., Ph.D. is a known advocate of the arts, and the University is reflecting these positive changes. With a new performing arts center on its way and a Creative Writing minor soon to be offered, students are increasingly able to find outlets of self-expression provided through the University.

With all of this in mind, Kelly and Eliades are optimistic that the future of the Poetry Society is a promising one. It attracted significant interest at the Activities Fair, and its first meeting was well attended. This speaks to the number of Villanova students who are seeking an artistic extracurricular activity.

No experience in writing or performing poetry is required to be a member, and there is no minimum level of participation. The hope is that the club will be an involvement for writers that is educational, collaborative and inspiring—not stressful. Poets can gather to read famous works, workshop each other’s writing and perform their art. Members will be expected to write.

Kelly hopes that the Society will live on long after she and Eliades have graduated. For now, though, she’s excited about how much potential it has. Proximity to Philadelphia, a city Kelly describes as a “great artistic pot of gold” presents another exciting opportunity.  Kelly says that trips to attend workshops and poetry slams in Philadelphia are definitely on the agenda. The society’s manifesto cites these plans as an opportunity to “expand the artistic horizons” of its writers. 

Kelly admits that at this rate, the club may turn into something much greater than poetry. She sees no limit on what forms of writing they will explore, from rap lyrics to short stories.

Right now, the society is in its growth period. Kelly and Eliades want input from new and present members about where they want take it. Hopefully, the society will be able to collaborate with other artistic groups on campus. Members of the Poetry Society can currently apply for positions on the executive board.

When it comes down to it, the University is a community-oriented school. Within this environment, Kelly and Eliades want to create a community of writers. Eliades sums up their mission nicely: “Poetry can be so healing, and I want to be a part of something that brings people together.”