The purpose of the Ethnic Voices Poetry Series, begun in fall 2007, is to expose individuals to artistic thought and expression that challenges their preconceptions about those whose experiences and points of view differ from their own. Because all literature focuses on the human condition, a sharing of that literature promotes a sharing of ideas regarding the challenges, disappointments, and celebrations of all people, and the written and verbal expression of emotions that those activities promote.
Poetry's roots grow deep in an ancient spoken tradition, representing the earliest literature. Today's familiar written poetry tradition continues to fascinate us, due to the inherent artistic beauty of its language; however, too few are able to hear the poet speak that language. Poetry represents a rich revelation of our own human nature, thus drawing us into its magic. Eighteenth-century British poet Alexander Pope explained of Homer that his poetry attracted others to pursue his "Walk of Art," as he compared poetry to a Garden. The Garden contains seeds that poet artists cultivate into living words of beauty. Poetry is not just words deposited on a page or thrown out into the wind. Those words arrive at a perfection due to what Pope terms "the Strength of this amazing Invention," referring to the process poetry takes in the poet's mind as art stewards that process. Our series will allow poets with vastly different "gardens" to share their cultivations with diverse audiences.
A journey into poetry composed by one from another heritage, such as the poets in our Series, represents a new experience for its audience. Through such new experience the human mind may grow and expand, perhaps discovering its own means of Invention to produce its own type of art. Because, as Pope notes, a superior Poet draws on "all the inward Passions and Affections of Mankind" to create, the results spark recognition in others who hear his or her art. Poetry remains unique in that one need not understand the literal meaning of each term or reference in order to benefit. Its artistic quality also lies in its rhythm, its arrangement of sounds in a pleasing manner to the ear. That aspect of quality comes to life with the poet's voice.
Poetry begs to be voiced, not simply read in silence from the page. If the listener recognizes a theme in a poem, all the better, but its art is not diminished if the allusions simply move a listener to experience pleasure or puzzlement. The viewer's reaction defines art as art, and spoken poetry draws reactions. Thus, the artistic components constitute the whole of this series, as individual poets constitute its components.