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Poets who know it

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Poetry Brigade

Roses are red/Violets are blue/despite my fondness for Emily Dickinson/this is best I could do. Attention, poetry lovers: The UW Poetry Brigade is where you can be part of a real-life Dead Poets Society.

The group started out as an Honors seminar, Triggering Town, in spring 2013. Frances McCue, the faculty leader of the Poetry Brigade and UW Honors writer-in-residence, was an instructor of the seminar. The class ended with the quarter but shortly after, students who wished to continue writing poetry together began gathering at McCue’s house or the Honors office.  

“People were willing to keep writing and talking about poetry, so we just kept going,” McCue said. “Since then, we have added more people who aren’t necessarily in Honors.”

The Poetry Brigade writes micro-poetry, performs “poetry shenanigans” (described by group members as activities that make poetry fun and mischievous), and does “poetry bombs,” where they drop printed poems all over campus. There are no leaders or other designated positions in the Poetry Brigade. Everyone is a poet. 

“I am just an older poet writing with them,” McCue said. 

The group’s motive is “to inspire people to write and read poetry,” McCue said. “We are like the little community … where we can talk about poetry.”

It is their aim to make poetry more approachable.

“We want to raise awareness for poetry and make it more accessible on campus,” said senior English major Adria Olson. “… Just to give people a casual, fun exposure of poetry because lot of people are unfamiliar with poetry, kind of scared of it, and think it is pretentious. We want to make it more fun.” 

The Poetry Brigade is a pop-up interest group, open to all. Meetings are scheduled and announced through its Facebook group. The group usually meets at cafes near campus, at a room in Mary Gates Hall, or at McCue’s house for special potlucks. The members are free to come and go as they wish. 

From writing poems about fingerling potatoes and hosting on-the-spot poetry booths for Valentine’s Day, the Poetry Brigade does a little bit of everything.

“The things people bring in, things they are reading, and things they know about, it’s really cool to hear about that,” said Cali Kopczick, an original member from Triggering Town. “I feel like it’s hard to find other places like that for discussion.”

But the Poetry Brigade is not just for creative writing majors.

“I don’t get to write, really, besides stuff for my classes is technical science stuff, so it is nice to have something where I get the opportunity to do some creative writing,” Ashley Bobman, a junior public health major, said.

In February 2014, senior English major Jack Chelgren started Blind Glass, a digital poetry magazine “produced under the auspices of Poetry Brigade,” according to the Blind Glass Facebook page. Blind Glass has a staff of seven editors working on its upcoming issue, which will tentatively publish March 7. Blind Glass is the only poetry magazine at the UW.

Chelgren felt the need to create a student-run magazine that specifically focuses on poetry. Despite the size of the UW, he said, there was no poetry magazine, while the much smaller school he went to his freshman year had four poetry magazines.

Blind Glass creates a forum for students to share their work, he said.

“I just knew there is so much great writing going on at UW that I don’t think that was all getting published, so I wanted to create a space for that to happen,” said Chelgren.

To learn more about the Poetry Brigade, join their Facebook group, and for more information about Blind Glass, visit


Reach contributing writer Damin Ko at Twitter: @damin_ko

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