‘Dead poets society’ aims to build community through art, music

Hear a clip of Paul McCullough’s reading “Pvt. Thomas Saint Demoines” from a Dead Poets Society earlier this semester or what it sounds like to just be in the Levi Coffin atmosphere

The Guilfordian has published an article on Levi’s Coffin, Guilford’s Dead Poet’s Society. Co-founders Hadley Davis and Jamie Sisk are featured. Check it out:

‘Dead poets society’ aims to build community through art, music

By Kylie Gilliams

Levi’s Coffin is not the first society to celebrate writing and poetry at Guilford: literary societies have been intermittently present here since 1874.

This new “dead poets society” at Guilford is a little different though. On March 24, people drifted into the living room of “the Wild Kingdayum,” also known as North Apartments 754, sitting on couches and the floor until the room was almost entirely filled with only a small space in the center for people to share their music or poetry.

“Levi’s Coffin is an attempt to recreate community here at Guilford College,” said co-founder and junior Jamie Sisk. “It’s an open forum for poetic expression, music, shouting, just togetherness. It’s a place that people come to read from authors past and read their own stuff too.”

Sisk and junior Hadley Davis recently co-founded the society with the goal of bringing people together from all corners of campus in order to build community between people who come from different circles.

“I think that some of the impetus for it came from conversations that Hadley had with me and others about issues of community on campus,” said Max Carter, director of the Friends Center and campus ministry coordinator. “This was part of her and some of her friends’ response to that concern and this is something that is wide open to people all over campus — athletes, non-athletes, jocks, hippies, you name it — so it helps address that concern … the more we do things like (Levi’s Coffin), the better we weave a tapestry of full community.”

Sophomore and regular attendee Will Kimmel described the dynamic nature of the meetings.

“One of my favorite things is to just see how quickly it (the meeting) can go from a hilarious poem about smoking weed that Shel Silverstein wrote, to really deep, looking at the core of someone’s troubles or problems with death or anything like that,” said Kimmel.

Members also emphasized the community aspect of the meetings.

“Whenever someone gets up to share, there’s respect,” said sophomore Tim Leisman “No one’s talking or whispering or texting while they’re reading, everyone is really engaged with each other and really ready to be connected to each other.”

Some have raised the concern that in order to truly build community, people from all backgrounds and ethnicities must be invited and feel welcome.

“Something that’s arts-based should be able to travel effectively across dividing lines,” said Holly Wilson, director of multicultural education. “I don’t think there are any issues inherent with that kind of club; but with their advertising, with sharing about the club, they would have to express that differing ideas, differing viewpoints, different styles are welcome there.”

First-year Joyce Medina emphasized how a diversity of members as well as the material presented would enrich the organization as well as Guilford as a whole.

“Because of the words in the poetry, (I think) it would bring the people together because of different languages and situations,” said Medina.

Despite these challenges and the society’s newness, Levi’s Coffin seems to have already made steps towards building community.

“The first meeting especially was really emotional; I certainly let my guard down completely, which is amazing because you’re practically in a room full of strangers,” said Davis. “It says a lot about Guilford and the way that we interact with each other and how we are able to really express who we are as individuals, but also as a community.”


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