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Oxford and Beyond

Miami’s Ohio Writing Project provides resources for creating eclipse poetry

April 6 event in Dayton encourages community poems, art

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Oxford and Beyond

Miami’s Ohio Writing Project provides resources for creating eclipse poetry

“All the world is an eclipse,” wrote Paul Laurence Dunbar in his poem, “A Madrigal.” Those words, published in 1913 from the acclaimed Dayton writer and poet, are part of the inspiration for the partnership between Miami’s University’s Ohio Writing Project (OWP) and the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park.

Working with the park, OWP provided eclipse resources for teachers, writers, and the community with the upcoming April 8 solar eclipse in mind. OWP Eclipse Day at the Park is 1-4 p.m. April 6 at the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center, 16 S. Williams Street in Dayton, where participants can create community poems and art.

OWP previously worked with the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park by building resources to help tell the story of Dunbar and aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright. Dunbar and Orville Wright were classmates at Dayton Center High School, and the Wrights printed Dunbar’s Dayton Tattler, the community’s first African American newspaper.

Eclipse resources include adding analysis to Dunbar’s “A Madrigal,” as well as responding to the poem with quick writing prompts.

The poem provides perfect imagery for this moment in time, said Beth Rimer, director of OWP. “The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park tells the dual stories of Paul Laurence Dunbar and the Wright Brothers,” Rimer said “It’s a really interesting place that connects these two different stories.”

Like Miami’s Oxford campus, Dayton is in the path of totality for the April 8 eclipse. This once-in-a-lifetime event is a perfect opportunity to help people put their words down and capture the moment, Rimer said. It’s also a way to highlight the work being done by OWP.

Founded in 1980 and part of Miami’s Department of English, OWP is the one of the longest running and largest sites of the National Writing Project. OWP supports K-12 educators across the region with a professional community centered around shared writing, knowledge, and practical teaching.

“We have a really great network of teachers across Ohio,” Rimer said.

A joint grant from the National Writing Project and National Park Service allowed OWP to work with the Dayton park for a writing event in October based on Dunbar and the Wrights.

Ryan Qualls, National Park Service ranger, later contacted Rimer with the idea of doing a similar event for the eclipse.

“When he looked at the resources, he was amazed and couldn’t stop smiling that somebody would take the time to interact with the poem,” Rimer said. “With community writing projects, you never know what’s going to happen, but the key is making the space for it to happen. If you make the space, young people will bring their voices and their words and something cool will happen.”

The event is part of a parallel collaboration with the Wick Poetry Center for Shared Sky, an interactive online poetry project, as well as a larger collaboration with the National Writing Project’s Prompts for Writing Outside

“We are lucky to be part of Shared Sky,” Rimer said. “This has been very gratifying to have it all come together. Sometimes, it’s about having met the right people who are interested in making the same kinds of spaces together in the community at the right time.”