Poetry night explores ideas of citizenship

Who has the power to dream and to detain? What constitutes culture and national identity? What is citizenship?

These are some of the questions that members of Marginalia, an undergraduate poetry review society, grappled with during an April 18 poetry open mic night called “Radiant Voices: Citizenship.”

The event was a part of Cornell Welcomes Refugees’ Week of Action and also coincided with an April 18 poetry reading by Claudia Rankine, the author of “Citizen: An American Lyric,” a poetry collection published in 2014.

The idea for the open mic night  came up last spring after some racialized and gender-based incidents on campus, said Katha Sikka ‘20, Marginalia’s events coordinator. “Marginalia wanted to stand in solidarity with the students and communities that were affected through poetry,” she said.

The two-hour event brought together various groups on campus including Haven: Cornell’s LGBTQ+ Student Union, the Womxn of Color Coalition and La Asociacion Latina. Twenty undergraduate and MFA students read original and admired work in multiple languages. With events like this one and  a Queer Poetry Night last semester, Marginalia is expanding from being solely publication-based student organization.

“We were really excited that we got so many different people interested in reading at the event and attending,” Sikka said. “This has really shown us that this is a space that is needed on campus. Our main goal is to see this event happening on this campus in future semesters.”

In coming semesters, students in Marginalia hope to publish the shared poems from “Radiant Voices” in a chapbook.

The event was sponsored by ALANA Intercultural Board, the Durland Alternatives Library, the Asian & Asian-American Center, Cornell Ambassadors for Media and Performance, Cornell Storytelling Club, Cornell Union for Disability Awareness, ¡Cultura! Ithaca, Dream Team, Haven: Cornell’s LGBTQ+ Student Union, Hindu Students Council, Interfaith Council, La Asociacion Latina, MOSAIC, Muslim Educational and Cultural Association, Puerto Rican Students Association, Sikh Students Association, Students for Justice in Palestine, South Asian Council and the Womxn of Color Coalition.

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Student reads their poem at Radiant Voices