The Power of Poetry


Angela Coppola

Glenis Redmond shares some of her favorite poetry with Brashier students. (Angela Coppola)

During the week of October 9th through the 13th, Glenis Redmond, the Peace Center’s Poet-In-Residence, visited Brashier Middle College. She provided interactive poetry workshops, performed some of her own poetry, and shared the power of the written word with English III students at Brashier. From writing to performing, Redmond has traveled all around the country sharing how poetry has changed her and those around her.

“One of my favorite parts about my job is that I get to travel. I love meeting new people and experiencing new cultures everywhere I go, but it’s also one of my least favorite parts. I love my family and my home, and a lot of times it can be hard to leave them so often,” says Redmond.

Redmond grew up traveling. With her father in the Air Force, the family moved constantly. Born in South Carolina, she moved as far away as Italy before she finished the sixth grade. After her father retired, their family moved back to Sumter, South Carolina when Redmond was about twelve.

“Even though I loved the traveling, it was very difficult to move away from all my friends every few years. It did teach me a skill: how to get along with people. It was a culture shock, being back in the south for the first time in a long time. It wasn’t what I was used to,” says Redmond.

Like southern culture to twelve-year-old Redmond, poetry can come as a shock to many people. Poetry can allow people to connect with words and emotions in ways they may not anticipate. It can speak in different ways to different people, and it can be amazing to see the power of poetry at work.

“It was cool that she could use poetry to talk about things like people in history. I didn’t expect to learn something about South Carolina history, but I loved how she wrote about it and made it so interesting,” says sophomore Dorothy Campbell.

Redmond has been exposed to poetry since she was little; her parents read Mother Goose and Shakespeare to her. She didn’t really connect with poetry until she was in the fifth grade, during a performance of Jackie Early’s 1,968 Winters. She started writing her own poetry in seventh grade.

“I loved how, even though all of her poems were about very different subjects, they all seemed to relate back to her childhood and you could tell they all meant a lot to her,” says sophomore Kasey Griggs.

Poetry can be used in endless ways, especially when someone can connect with it. Several years ago, Redmond was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a chronic illness that causes immense pain in the body’s bones and muscles. Instead of letting this stop her, Redmond decided to put her energy towards writing poetry, and it has changed her life.

“Poems can literally save lives. I think they can show up at just the right time and speak to you, saying ‘There’s another way to live.’ They can really resonate with you,” says Redmond.

Despite the impact it has on people, many have negative views on poetry because of their past experiences with it. Some think it’s too hard to write, too hard to understand, or they simply don’t enjoy the creative form of writing.

“I used to hate poetry because it was so hard for me to write and understand. Ms. Redmond showed me how interesting, meaningful, and personal a poem can be. Her enthusiasm really changed my thoughts on poetry,” says junior Jenna Oppatt.

Many poets struggle to overcome obstacles in their careers. They can encounter anything from struggling to finding inspiration, enduring discouragement, or facing division within the poetry community.

“There’s a lot of disagreement among the poetry world, about whether you are a page poet or a stage poet. It’s somewhat a battle for me, because I really consider myself both. So many people are so quick to judge, and I try not to be that way because I know how hard it is to not feel accepted when you are trying to share your story,” says Redmond.

With so many amazing stories to share, poets can communicate extraordinary things to their audience. Poems can share wonderful stories, and the way they are delivered can greatly affect their message.

“I loved how she used motions and the inflection in her voice, rather than just reading the poem. She really brought it to life for us. Also, her poems weren’t negative. Even if they had a sad story, she put an optimistic twist on them and they made me feel really upbeat,” says Griggs.

Many people, students especially, neither fully understand nor appreciate the power of poetry. Many only use their preconceived ideas of poems when they read or listen to poetry. However, those with more open minds can be profoundly impacted by what they find in poetry.

“For anyone who is interested in poetry, I would recommend research. Surround yourself with as much poetry as you can and you will learn so much. With so many resources around us now, there are so many opportunities to discover what you enjoy about poetry. Find what really moves and speaks to you. Find your place in the world of poetry, and make it your home. Do it because you truly love it, and it makes you happy,” says Redmond.

Redmond certainly brought happiness to Brashier through her provocative poetry. Her shared insights on writing styles, her sources of inspiration, and how she weaves the struggles and successes of her life into her poetry were momentous.