Fundraising Idea: Poetry Auction

Writing – putting pen to paper – gives people the amazing ability to express their feelings, thoughts and emotions. It is a way to organize or deconstruct ideas, make thoughts more concrete –or leave you musing. Writing can be personal, scribbled in a journal tucked away in a drawer or public, broadcasted across the internet or in a newspaper. Either way, the genesis of writing is self-expression.

The Dictionary Project believes that giving a child a personal dictionary gives them the opportunity to learn the many words in our language and their meanings. In turn, these children will grow up having the ability to better express themselves, whether written or spoken.

To raise money for their dictionary project in the Walkes-Barre Area School District, the International English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta chapter, hosts a poetry auction each spring. Poets are asked to donate five cents for every word in their poem. If audience members are moved by the reading, they will match the poets’ donation. “This past year 34 poets read 42 poems and raised $568.00,” said Amanda Caleb, chapter advisor and Assistant Professor of English. The event was held in April and poets were asked to “maintain a theme of the love of literature, the power of words, and the importance of literacy” in their composition.

The Sigma Tau Delta chapter at Misericordia University combines academic success with community service. Members are required to have a 3.2 GPA in the English major/minor and a 3.0 GPA overall as well as participate in service activities for the community. The Dictionary Project began as one of their service projects in 2013. Since then, the organization has donated over 1,200 dictionaries to local students.

The following poem was written and submitted by Amanda M. Caleb, PhD, Assistant Professor of English at Misericordia University:

Mother Worries

When people ask about your health, I speak of you
in medical terms: a VACTERL baby.
He has:
a tracheoesophageal fistula,
        Repaired at 1 day old.
esophageal atresia,
        Repaired at 1 day old.
tethered spinal cord,
        Repaired at 4 months old.
imperforate anus.
        Repaired at 9 months old.
I cannot put meanings to these words
because meaning only reminds me how close we were
to losing you.

Across from your bed in the NICU two parents are learning how to clean
their newborn daughter’s trach. The father whispers faintly, “I didn’t sign up for this.”

I watch you run with your sister, laughing, screaming, sobbing.
I tuck you in at night with soft kisses and tender cuddles.
I bathe you, feed you, cut your food and blow on it until it’s cool,
like you are any other child.
But every meal we watch carefully,
in case you can’t swallow.
Each night we listen to you cough and think,
        will it ever get easier for him?

After your sixth surgery, I sit in the waiting room, listening to a doctor tell two parents that exposure to cigarette smoke will greatly increase their eight-year-old daughter’s risk of cancer. After the doctor leaves, the father grunts, “like hell I’m giving up smoking.”

I have constructed you in medical terms,
in mother worries.
But that is not you.
        You would tell me “bad mommy.”
What I see as limitation, you have turned into strength;
what was seen as disability has become ability.
You have formed your own self, your own meaning of words:
they do not define you;
you define them.