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MaKenzee Van Buren

When I made the decision to join Performance in Poetry Club during my freshman year through a learning community called “Lloyd Scholars for Writing and the Arts” at University of Michigan, it wasn’t because I had any experience in performing poetry or even that I had a huge desire to perform poetry. What really made me want to join the club was the leader - Dominique Witten. I had first met Dominique in the summer of 2019 at a program preparing me for university and then again in the beginning of fall semester. She always stood out as a helpful, confident, hilarious, and most definitely unique individual. As a member of her 2019-2020 Performance in Poetry Club, I can say she never once failed to lead with these traits and build a creative and fun community that is easily one of the best and most defining experiences of my first year experience.

My time spent in Dominique’s Performance in Poetry Club taught me so much about poetry. I learned what a poem is, what it can be, and all the techniques available to me to write a good one. But what has always remained with me is viewing performing poetry as a means of connection and unapologetic expression. Before my first performance, I was absolutely terrified to perform my poem. But with Dominique and Mitchel’s encouragement (and the fact that they thoroughly prepared us for our performance ahead of time), I did it. Afterward, I was surprised at how many people came up to me and expressed how my poem touched them. It opened my eyes to just how much poetry can connect people, and how for that reason alone it’s worth it to be vulnerable enough to create an honest poem and perform it.

In retrospect, I don’t believe the performance would have been such a powerful experience nor would I feel this strongly about performing poetry if I weren’t guided by Mitchel and Dominique. Both of them prove to have a knack for making their club members feel accepted and believe their poetry deserves to be heard – All while still challenging us to hone our poetic style and skills. Most importantly, they put in the effort to get to know us – who we are as people and who we have the potential to be as poets – and created a space where we would all feel supported and confident enough to challenge ourselves. And I think that’s what the best of leaders do.

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