Posted March 21, 2012 by Katie Falbo 

Finding the Right Word

Yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting, introducing, and hearing Elizabeth Alexander, who gave the second keynote address at the ACUI annual conference. Alexander is a teacher, poet, maker of soup, and so much more. Admittedly, I do not consider myself to be a reader of poetry, nor have I ever felt as though I was able to easily comprehend poetry. Yet, I found myself enthralled with both her keynote as well as her interaction with the Alexanderaudience during the question and answer period.

Alexander mentioned the importance of "finding the right word" when writing a poem. I felt as though the meaning behind every word she spoke yesterday was intentional. What a gift! She discussed the fact that poetry is not only an opportunity for reflection, but also for some, it can provide revelations—"large and small, global and intimate." How many times do we find ourselves reciting a poem or a song? We do so for a reason. The words have meaning to us—whatever that meaning is.

Alexander recited several poems during her address, some written by her and some written by others. Combined, the poems shared lessons about the past, the future, and our relationships with one another. Her explanation of the poems and the meaning behind them inspired me to pay more attention to poetry. As Alexander said, "poetry matters," and people do and should listen to it.

Finally, Alexander has entered the world of social media, having recently started a Twitter poetry project. She writes poems that she posts to her Twitter account every so often. You can follow her on Twitter @ProfessorEA.

Barry Bram is the senior associate director of union and student activities at Penn State University, overseeing the university’s student activities efforts. He also advises Penn State’s IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. Barry enjoys running, reading, and playing the piano in his spare time.

Katie Falbo

Katie Falbo is the Conference Services Manager at University of California–Santa Barbara.

Katie Falbo is the Conference Services Manager at the University Center at University of California–Santa Barbara, where she has worked for the past three years. In her free time, she enjoys going to her local farmers market and cooking up the delicious foods she finds there.


Could not have said it better myself. I thoroughly enjoyed Elizabeth's Alexander's keynote as well. I appreciated the way she tied poetry to reflection, but also to the larger ideas of relationships and doing good work. Very cool!
Gavin Telfer
Comment posted 03/22/2012 11:56 AM
Note: To post a comment to The Commons, you must login to the ACUI website.
about the commons
The Commons is the online hub to discover new ideas and learn what is going on in the college union and student activities profession.
more ...
about the contributors

Meet the ACUI members who have volunteered to share their knowledge and insights as regular authors in The Commons.

more ...