Poetry at Heidelberg

The following essay was written by Dr. William Reyer for the Winter 2011 Heidelberg Bulletin.

Poetry Links

Poetry Events at Heidelberg

  • ΣΤΔ Poetry Reading
  • William Stafford Birthday Celebration
  • Ohio Poetry Day

To me, poetry, at its heart, is a communal form of art. While poets work in the solitude of their journals or laptops – their laboratories of creative expression – poetry is meant to be experienced by a larger community. I am delighted to observe that poetry as a written and performance art has experienced rich growth over the past several years at Heidelberg University. It is not simply subject matter for literature courses.

Few poets write in a vacuum. I have been particularly fortunate to have colleagues at the Berg who share in my passion for the challenge of creating a poem.

Dr. John Bing and I have established a rewarding tradition of writing tandem-poems together, in which we compose alternate lines of a draft in hopes that a poem will emerge from the block of language we mine, much as a statue is said to emerge from a block of marble. Monthly, Stacy Wheeler, my colleague in Institutional Advancement, and I share a poem-focused lunch to discuss a drafted poem on which one of us is working. Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Ruth Wahlstrom has read many, many of my pieces. Her reading and commenting on my manuscript for Promontory Pines: Poems strengthened many of the poems greatly.

Teaching the writing of poems, it seems to me, is best understood as serving as a coach, training the muscles of expression, or as a voice instructor, encouraging the developing voice of a student. I offer instruction in forms – the haiku, the sonnet – and suggest what is valuable in a poem – image over abstraction, clarity over obscurity. I attempt to create a safe communal setting for the generation of poems, in which students come to trust one another to provide and receive feedback on their work.

Hand writingFinally, I encourage the reading of poetry, for without an awareness of the poets who came before them, emerging poets would not have a grasp that the poetic community goes back millennia, from themselves back to Homer. It is my hope that the challenge to create a meaningful poem is one form through which students can approach the goal of academic excellence at Heidelberg.

Poetry continues to enrich the student experience as well. The student-edited Morpheus (now online as Heidelberg “goes green”) is the product of students completing ENG 492, Senior Seminar in Writing, taught by Dr. David Kimmel. Universally accessible through the internet, Morpheus allows the poets (also fiction writers, essayists and artists) of Heidelberg to reach a larger audience than our limited-circulation paper format once did. In addition, the Morpheus staff promotes two readings each year as well as literary contests.

Students, like members of the Black Student Union, participate in the recently established William Stafford Birthday Celebration, at which they read classic Poems of the Struggle for Justice. Finally, students registered in ENG 311, Advanced Poetry Writing, have as one aspect of their course work participation in a semester-end reading which is open to the Heidelberg community.

I am proud to be numbered among those I smilingly refer to as the Heidelberg poets: from our students to our president, current practicing – and prize-winning – poets come from throughout the Heidelberg campus community.

Professor Bing has won numerous prizes at Ohio Poetry Day for his poems, like With You, written as a tribute to his friend and colleague, history professor Dr. Bonnie Fors on the occasion of her retirement. President Rob Huntington’s The Beanfield Boss Ladies won in a contest titled Industry during Ohio Poetry Day. Finally, at the same event, sophomore English major Laura Van Valkenburgh was awarded first prize in the College Student contest, sponsored by the University of Mount Union, for her poem The Seats in Severance Hall. Their poems make for enriching reading.

Even when I sit alone drafting a poem – at the lake in Michigan, in my office in Pfleiderer Hall, on the front porch at Potbelly Hill – I remain aware of a sense of a poetic community, for poetry is both an art of the private page and communal sharing. Both are vital aspects of Heidelberg University poetry as it continues to develop.

English 311 Students
Final Advanced Poetry Workshop, April 29, 2013, the Clover Club, Tiffin, Ohio. Enjoy the words of these poets in the souvenir booklet.

Creative Writing Courses at Heidelberg University

  • ENG 210, Creative Writing
  • ENG 311, Advanced Poetry Writing
  • ENG 312, Advanced Fiction Writing
  • ENG 371, 372, 471, 472, Independent Study
    Recent topics have included Asian Poetic Forms, Chapbook Composition and Compilation, and Creating Contemporary American Poems.


Provost David Weininger announced the Recipients of the 2013 Aigler Summer Research Grants:  

William R. Reyer.The Minotaur and the Damsel-fly: Poems

The project will cull from six years of poetic drafts and polished poems to identify the 70-80 which combined will comprise an aesthetically pleasing, thematically unified collection, and to polish individual poems so all have a uniformity of excellence. Dr. Reyer will self-publish the completed volume of verse.