The message of diversity rang clear during “World Voices”, the second annual poetry and translation festival sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts. Students and faculty recited their favorite poems in 21 different languages, capturing the social issues of their native countries.
Dr. Benjamin Rifkin, vice dean for Undergraduate Affairs in the College of Liberal Arts, said poetry is as diverse as the human experience.
“By coming together, we hope to show each other how diverse we are and how, across that diversity, we share a common humanity in the beauty of the poetic experience,” he said.
Rifkin also teaches Russian. He said his interest in poetry prompted him to learn how to speak the language.
“Poetry sustains a culture and poetry ennobles a culture,” he said. “In the Russian historical and cultural experience, it has been the poets who have kept alive the flame of freedom in dark times.
“Just as in other repressive regimes, prayer, music and poetry have helped people in dark times to preserve hope for better times to come.”
Founded by senior Spanish major Julietta Bekker, World Voices was created to signify the importance of diversity among students of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
Angela Scott, CLA’s director of Undergraduate Affairs, said Bekker’s motivation for the festival is valuable to promoting cultural diversity.
“We are delighted that she felt the need to showcase both the poetry of herself and her classmates. It’s a wonderful illustration of the diversity of Temple students,” Scott said.
Bekker, who is currently studying abroad through the Temple Rome program, nominated
senior sociology and English double major Nehad Khader to coordinate this year’s program. Khader said she felt compelled to continue Bekker’s idea for a world poetry festival in hopes of learning more about the history and civilization of people from different cultures.
“A lot of times we get to know each other on the surface cross-culturally and we don’t always have time to delve deeper,” she said.
For Khader, the greatest way to delve deeper into a culture is through its language and poetry.
“Poetry humanizes people. Everyone in any country has some form of poetry,” Khader said. Scott agreed that poetry humanizes people from all cultures.
“Not all of us are the same, not all of us come from the same background and not all of us express ourselves in the same way. Poetry allows us to do just that,” Scott said.
In northern Ethiopia, the freedom of poetic
expression is an uncommon liberty. Sophomore political science major Meaza Iyassu read her father’s poem in recognition of his exile from their native country in 1985.
“At the time there was no freedom of expression. It was more of an opposition to the government and government officials had a problem with him rebelling,” Iyassu said.
Her father was exiled for his unconventional speeches. Moved to tears by her father’s poetry, Iyassu found his writings to be an innovative form of expression.
“Supposedly, in poor countries, to get by is to make your voice heard,” Iyassu said.
Khader found Iyassu’s poem highly representative of people who are currently oppressed.
“[Poetry] represents an exile of a people and a memory behind the lost of a country. People are being made refugees all over the world today,” she said.
Reading an original poem in Arabic, senior political science major Maha Abu al Faraj began by dedicating the poem to her mother, who passed away two years ago.
“I was really a private person, but I had to do it for her,” Faraj said. “I like poetry because it’s a very powerful thing to describe how one is feeling.”
Mitul Patel, a senior finance major, described his feelings in Hindi, expressing his admiration for love in the reading of “Move Love Meets in my Dream”.
“Poetry has deep meanings in it. Sometimes reading and writing poetry brings your innermost feelings out in the words. It’s a very sweet thing,” Patel said.
Junior Drew Watson, an informational science technology major, said he enjoyed the various languages spoken in the showcase.
“It all seems to rhyme no matter what language it is. I would always wonder how, even though we’re speaking in a different language, it still sounds right,” Watson said.
Brittany Diggs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.