by Sarah Ramire
Due to lack of funding, the Education Fund of Westfield will be unable to sponsor the Visiting Poets Series, which has been held at WHS for the past nine years. The VPS allowed students to hear and work with professional poets from around the world
In the past the Eduation Fund of Westfield has largely funded the VPS with the help of the PTSO and other individual sponsors.
According to English teacher Mr. John Cheddar, director of VPS, the budget for poets has ranged between $500 and $2,500. The poets and literary agent, Alison Granuccia have been understanding with the financial situation. Said Cheddar, "[the poets] have accepted far less than their honariums."
The VPS started in 2002 by Ms. Liz Muller to offer students the opportunity to work in poetry workshops, as well as the chance to observe a well known poet, through readings and workshops. Cheddar has also expanded the program to the community by having the poet do a night reading at the school.
"The response [to the night reading] has always been very positive. I have received many emails from students and residents of Westfield and surrounding towns expressing their appreciations for the event."
Past poets have included Marie Howe, Li-Young Lee, Phillip Schultz and Valzhyna Mort. Last year, former student Siyu Xiao, a student at the University of Pittsburg, was given the opportunity to introduce the poet, Valzhyna Mort. Xiao recieved this chance after completing a project on Mort for Cheddar’s junior English class. Said Xiao, "Being able to see her in person enhanced the meaning of her poetry because we got an even better sense of the personality behind the words on the page."
Without VPS, students lose opportunity for a unique event that could change their views on poetry, or connect them more with it. Cheddar says: "This event was usually the first time a student would experience a reading or participate in a workshop. I know past events have had a very lasting impact on students. Many students have told me the way in which their love of poetry began with the event.
English teacher Ms. Karen Goller comments, "By not having VPS we are losing things that are valuable for the students understanding appreciation of poetry: the process of developing poetry and formulating ideas and the enrichment of the program, leading us to having a bare-boned education."
Although there is no set alternative, other event ideas are in the making to replace VPS that will not be as costly. Cheddar says, "[I] will likely reach out to some of our great local poets who I have formed relationships with over the years… but even that will require some level of funding ."