By Michan Myer, Assistant Director, The Center for Writing
For both artists and scholars, the breathtaking landscape surrounding Norwich’s campus serves as an ever-present reminder of humanity’s desire to capture the “essence” of place. Whether through art, architecture, or verse, we are constantly striving to share the intimacy of locale with others. Armed with this understanding—and a bit of prior experience—Art and Architecture Professor Cara Armstrong designed a collaborative project for Norwich students of Architecture, Literature, and Art.
Fusing the worlds of poetry and design, students worked together across the curriculum to engage with six cities, their architectural elements, and poems themed around them. Students in Professor Sagan’s AP 118 class (Fundamentals of Architecture) began by mapping and analyzing their cities: Berlin, Brasilia, Chicago, Paris, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. They shared their analyses of the cities’ shapes, districts, landmarks, nodes, and pathways (Lynch Diagramming) through a vignette page of architectural views and diagrams communicating change over time. Professor Myer’s EN 102 students (Composition and Literature) took those insights to a search for poems addressing the architectural elements of the cities, and they created a collection of poems from which the students in Professor Arnold’s and Professor Armstrong’s SA 104 classes (Visual Design) could select to create their poetry posts. In this nearly month-long collaboration, students worked both individually and in groups, offering thoughtful discussion, creative insight, and unique perspectives for each other’s projects.
The results of the collaboration were nothing short of spectacular. Professor Armstrong’s vision extended beyond the rather simple definition of poetry posts—“A wooden pole…On top of the pole is a box…Inside the box is a sheet of paper containing a poem” (Foster). Instead, she sought a project that provided an opportunity for in-depth analysis, both architecturally and literarily, as well as creative expression. Through their willingness to work across academic perspectives, students grew with each step of the process, and all three classes demonstrated the value of collaboration through their exceptional performance.
What could have been three separate and adequate assignments, for three distinctly different courses, became instead an opportunity for Norwich’s first-year students to shine—and shine they did! From colorful hanging sculptures suspending billowing stanzas to intricate analyses of metaphor and imagery, the final results of the collaboration are outstanding. The poetry posts are installed throughout the Sullivan Museum and will remain there for public viewing through the month of April—National Poetry Month.