Poetry and dance create a homecoming

Story by Mary Ellen Sanger

Poet Seth Bodine (Journalism and Media Communication, ’18) has written one haiku a day for the past three years, publishing them on his Instagram channel @haikuaday. At more than 1,200 haiku poems written, it seems he never runs out of words to mold. Bodine was able to coax his words into new forms with the help of other student artists through funding from the SURE grant (Sponsoring Undergraduate Research in English). Co-funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research, the College of Liberal Arts, and the Department of English, SURE provides faculty mentors for undergraduates to work on research or creative artistry. Bodine’s multi-media production entitled “Crossings” is the first of three projects funded through this grant.

Crossings poetry reading advertisement
Poster design for the “Crossings” reading event. Designed by artist Courtney Dore.

“Crossings” was an experimental, multimedia reading that focused on how language within poetry might shift and change with the merging of different art mediums. Bodine worked with more than 10 artists (writers, visual artists, and musicians) to recreate his poems. “Collaboration takes a great amount of generosity, flexibility, and hard work on behalf of the artists,” says Bodine. All this and vision say his mentors.

English Associate Professor Dan Beachy-Quick supported Bodine throughout the project, noting “the broadening and deepening vision never felt chaotic, but natural, organic, ordered. Seth embodies to me one of the highest ideals in English and the humanities: seeking out others to join and unfold shared vision. It is work of both deep affirmation and deep risk, all of which could be felt and seen so beautifully on the night of the performance.”

In one collaboration for the project, Bodine’s poem “Homecoming” was set to choreography and then filmed. Students in the course Choreography I – Franny Komperda, Payton Lauer, Brianna Port, Emily Wallace, and Taylor Woolums – worked with one another and with Seth to bring out the theme of home.

“One of the larger themes is how we build a home through our words with others, in relationships, and in family,” says Bodine.

Woolums, a junior dance major, highlights the challenge and significance of this interdisciplinary project. “Although a lot of the choreography was simple, it held great value in terms of trying to portray the idea of the poem through gestural movement that could be understood by a non-dancer audience.”

The choreography took many late nights, and the filming took four hours. “We wanted to not only film the choreography as a form of documentation, but make watching the video an experience in itself. The video is constantly moving and shifting, mirroring the idea that a home is one that is always shifting and changing as we go through our lives,” says Bodine.

The end result was powerful for those who attended Bodine’s final presentation. “This endeavor was enriching and powerful to me,” says Woolums. “It shows how impactful art can be, in all its forms and its rawest nature.”

English Assistant Professor Zach Hutchins wrote the winning grant hoping to empower students to pursue projects that extend beyond the classroom. “What excited me about Seth’s project was the expansiveness of his vision—not just a collaboration with a single visual artist or a single dancer, but with a wide range of artists working in a variety of fields.”

Team picture of the "Crossings" collaboration
Seth Bodine with the team of dancers and videographers that brought "Crossings" to life. From left to right: Bri Port, Payton Lauer, Emily Wallace, Davis Bonner, Seth Bodine, Taylor Woolums, Franny Komperda.