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The Nightingale Society provides space for vulnerability through poetry

October 22, 2021

Enduring the stresses of the pandemic last school year, Paul Russo ’23 needed to de-stress and wanted to give other students the opportunity to do the same. Combining his love of poetry with a need for community, Paul formed the Nightingale Society, a club meant to foster vulnerability and connection for poets on campus.

The club focuses on using poetry as a way for students to be mindful, vulnerable and de-stress. The leaders of the club, Russo, Jade Cromwell ’23 and Anna Cox ’24, strive to create a space where students can build a strong sense of community.

“English has always been my favorite subject, and I’ve always found writing to be a sort of therapeutic thing and enjoyed poetry,” Russo said. “What I felt was kind of missing when I wrote by myself was a community of others to support me.”

During the society’s meetings, members improve their poetry writing skills by working through different prompts. While the usual meeting involves freewriting poems and sharing them aloud, the club also does different activities, such as editing movie scripts to make poems and haiku roulettes.

“We do things that are fun … while [other writing groups on campus] might be writing the entire time and workshopping based on the quality of the writing,” Russo said. “We’re really talking to each other, talking about each other’s lives and connecting on that.”

During their weekly meetings, students are encouraged to be vulnerable and use their writing as a window into their personal lives. Group members believe that it is this vulnerability that separates them from other literary groups on campus.

“I’d say it’s totally about the writing, but it’s more so about the [writers] and their wellbeing, making sure that people feel supported by others and are in a good headspace,” Russo said.

Group members can choose how vulnerable they want to be when sharing their compositions at club meetings. The group encourages a culture of respectability so that club members understand that the vulnerable poetry shared doesn’t leave the meetings.

“You can always share about what the poem means to you, and you can also decide not to share why you wrote the poem,” club member Wilder Mae Harwood ’24 said. “So you can share those more intimate poems and maybe not give the background or you can. I’ve done both and felt more comfortable depending on the night. I think it definitely stays within the people there and everyone is so respectful.”

After a full year online, this year marks the first time that the club has been on campus after the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the club faced online scheduling difficulties, so the transition has been relatively easy and members have welcomed the new in-person format.

“We were thinking about [doing] it in-person in [the] spring but that ended up getting complicated with who was around and a lot of our members were taking the semester off or studying from their house,” Cromwell said. “We kept it virtual the whole year. So [it is] definitely interesting to see it now … since it’s the first time we’ve had it in person.”

Finding members has been a challenge for the group, but group leaders believe that whether a student is new to the world of poetry or a seasoned verse veteran, the club has something to offer writers on campus.

“I think we’re always looking for more people to come, and we would love to have some more people to join,” Russo said.

Nightingale society meets every week on Wednesday from 9:00 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. in Lancaster Lounge, Moulton Union. To join, students should sign up for the club’s emailing list through campus groups.


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