When Dr. Anna Leahy started Tabula Poetica in 2009, she did not imagine what it might be years later. Now known as the center for vibrant conversation about poetry at Chapman University, Tabula Poetica has made a name for itself, hosting more than 50 poets over the years and launching Tab: The Journal of Poetry & Poetics. In December, the Poetry Center celebrated a milestone anniversary, turning 10 years old. The program organized a special evening to commemorate the exciting occasion inviting more than a dozen previous poets who have participated in the Chapman poetry center’s events over the last decade to read their work in an intimate setting.
“I know a book of poems is its own wonder but the very presence of a poet walking through their work with me, now that’s something I’ll never forget,” raved (MFA ’21) student Tryphena Yeboah (a published poet in her own right). “When Shole Wolpé got up the stage and begun to speak, I was immediately drawn in by her voice, hand gestures and her strong aura of performance. Her poem “My Brother at the Canadian Border” resonated most with me, being a black girl in a foreign country and keeping my guard up, knowing anything can happen, even when nothing should,” she said.
Like the other visiting poets, Wolpé had previously presented her work at an event organized by Tabula Poetica. The name Tabula Poetica brings together tabula rasa (or the blank slate) and ars poetica (or the art of poetry), which was exactly what the final reading of the 2019 series represented.
“It was an extraordinary event. [The] brilliant poetry readings were a testament to the excellence of Tabula Poetica: Poetry at Chapman University,” said Wilkinson English Professor Lisa Cupolo.
Along with Wolpé, poets Leahy, Maureen Alsop, Tony Barnstone, Michelle Bitting, Stephanie Brown, Hèléne Cardona, Genevieve Kaplan, Elline Lipkin, Katie Manning, Patty Seyburn, Lynne Thompson, Lorene Delaney Ullman, Allison Benis White, and Cecilia Woloch presented a diverse range of topics and poetic form in their readings. Several of these poets have also published their poems in past publications of Tab and the names in bold will be featured in TAB 2020 in January.
“Over the last decade, Tabula Poetica has become a vibrant cultural series because the university’s leaders, my colleagues, and our ambitiously creative students recognize the value of poetry in how we make sense of a challenging world and imagine what’s possible,” said Dr. Leahy.
In addition to directing Tabula Poetica, Dr. Leahy is the author of several publications, most recently; Conversing with Cancer (2018), Tumor (2017) , Aperture (2017). Earlier this year she was awarded 1st place in creative nonfiction from the Los Angeles Review (LAR) Literary Awards. It’s a wonder that she finds the time, given her other major responsibility directing the MFA program in Wilkinson College!
“Winning the essay award at the Los Angeles Review meant a lot because I’ve been writing nonfiction for only the last few years and also because the piece is about my mom’s illness and I was able to find a form that allowed me to say some difficult things about cancer and grief,” said Dr. Leahy.
“The ability to inspire, create, reflect – this is what it means to be human, and poetry holds a very special power to convey the inner workings of the mind and heart in a manner unmatched by other art forms. This event brought together, at the same moment, individuals who played such as important role in the center’s evolution and marked this important milestone in the history of Wilkinson College,” said Wilkinson College Dean Jennifer D. Keene.