Poetries, Politics, and Buttons

This semester I’ve had the pleasure to participate in the class Poetries-Politics. Students in the class acted as curators for an exhibit that opened last month in the Academic Building (and is still there on the 4th, 5th, and 6th floors).

The exhibit was meant to build walls of poetry about politics that brought together languages from all across the world in one place. The class accomplished this by 1) curating poetry in different languages and 2) sending them to students in Mason Gross to design them.

In the first stage, each student in the class acted as a curator, creating and recruiting others to create briefs about poetry in their specific language(s) (mine were Latin and Ancient Greek). The briefs consisted of the poems in their original language, a translation into English or French, a brief history of the poem and it’s author,  and any visual elements we wanted to emphasize in the poster. I recruited four people and between the lot of us, we chose and wrote briefs for 9 poems by everyone from all across antiquity.

In the next stage, the Mason Gross students designed the posters and we proofed them, which was chaos. It’s a really interesting game of telephone analyzing what you get what a poem, trying to explain that to an artist you’ve never met, and seeing what they produce as a result, so not only was there the meticulous issue of ensuring they got the text right, but also the shock of things you didn’t expect. Still, ultimately all the posters were beautiful, bringing us to phase three: setting up and marketing the exhibit.

Setting up was interesting. We worked with people from the Zimmerli Art Museum to hang the posters and figuring out how to fit x number of posters in so little space. Still, the bigger challenge actually came from my job at the Honors Program.

See, the Honors Program has a button maker that they love to use when they can (if you were at Colloquium this fall, you might have used it) and, on the tailcoats of that button-making frenzy, they promised Professor Shaw who ran the exhibition that they would design and make 300 buttons. Then, like anyone college, we didn’t start until the week before. So the Monday before the exhibition, we had about forty and not enough designs. So, I designed two buttons. Then during a tutoring session I designed a few more and while waiting to go home to vote a few more and at night when I should’ve been working on homework a few more. Overall I made about sixteen (one for each language group) and started walking around with them all.


The exhibition opened that Thursday and it was a blast. There were speakers from all over and a lot of people saw our posters. If you didn’t get to go to the exhibition, that’s totally fine, the posters are still hanging on those floors so you can go appreciate pictures, poetry, and politics all at once. It’s a truly eye-opening to see how many ideas transcend national and linguistic boundaries. In may case, even time. You can read more here.


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