More than 50 students from 20 Knox County elementary, middle and high schools will present original poetry work at the Latitude 35: Student Poetry Reading at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 8 at the World’s Fair Park Amphitheater. Admission is free.
Earlier this year, all Knox County students were encouraged by Knoxville’s first Poet Laureate R.B. Morris to take part in creating an original collection of poetry about Knoxville through a project called Latitude 35: Navigating Knoxville Through Poetry and a process called poetry mapping.
South Doyle Middle School student Isaiah Whaley was selected to read his poem at Mayor Madeline Rogero’s State of the City lunch on April 27. He was among more than 1,000 students who submitted poems.
The project is based off an idea from Claudia Castro Luna—Seattle, Washington’s first civic poet—that was featured in a PBS News Hour story. Castro Luna was looking for a way to create a snapshot of the rapidly changing city, so she asked people to write about specific locations that had meaning to them. The result was something called a “Poetic Grid,” or a map of the city illustrated through the voices and written words of the people who live there. Morris hopes to create a map of our own city, and share its rich history, through poetry.
A group called Literary Knox has done something similar in an attempt to bring Knoxville’s literary history alive by providing maps, biographies and contextual information from the lives and works of local authors Alex Haley, Cormac McCarthy, Nikki Giovanni and James Agee.