In Line for Obama, Collaborative Poetry Emerges

By Purnell T. Cropper | March 12, 2010

“Dear President Obama,” begins the collaborative poetry project begun by Arcadia student JoEllen Hutchison as she stood in line on Saturday, March 6, to get a ticket to see the President’s speech. “To pass the time I started at the beginning of the line and worked my way back.” Read the poetry, titled “Dear President Obama.”

“There is something special about the professors that we get to meet and learn from at Arcadia University,” begins Hutchinson, a five-year student earning a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s in Special Education, in the poetry. “ There is an open-armed acceptance, ‘we work for you’ attitude. There are numerous professors here that have changed the lives of each individual that has come through these Castle gates. One of the lessons that changed the way a West Coast girl felt about this historic East Coast town is to write collaborative poetry with complete strangers. Here is where I began to see what fellow humans had to offer each other.”

Hutchinson says the idea for the collaborative poetry “was because I had a class with Dr. Leif Gustavson this past summer, and his homework assignments during this course changed my life. He made us go out to write collaboratively (poetry) with strangers. Coming from Arizona to here, this assignment changed the way in which I viewed the people in this area, and when I’m having a bad day, I go write poetry with strangers!

“When I saw the turnout of people waiting in line for President Obama on Saturday, I just thought that this would be a great idea to show the unity and dedication of people in voicing their opinions and showing support. I had people write four words per line about anything that they would like to say to President Obama—just in case he would read this—and then pass it to their neighbor. I had people following me down the line to read what others wrote and several people came and found me in order to write down their words.

“Later that evening I sent out e-mails to all of the professors that I knew that might be able to help see that the President got this and per Dr. JoAnn Weiner’s suggestion, I e-mailed Dr. Jerry Greiner. He was awesome enough to see the value in what we did and shared in the excitement of possibilities in giving it to the President.”