Karley Misek: Poetry is for everyone

Karely+Misek+is+majoring+in+English+Education+at+Eastern+MichiganUniversity

Karley Misek

Karely Misek is majoring in English Education at Eastern MichiganUniversity

Gina Ko, Feature Editor

Beginning of the last school year, Huron alumna Karley Misek was asked to be the assistant of Elisabeth Däumer, the professor in the English Language and Literature Department at Eastern Michigan University, for the project about Muriel Rukeyser, an American poet and her musical play, “Houdini.”

My professor came up with the idea because there’s not much known about the play Houdini in literature and education,” Misek said. “It just came up as an opportunity to make more known and I’ve been so excited to explore it.”

It was not that Misek immediately accepted this request just because her professor asked for it. There was something more about Rukeyser that pushed her into the active role in this project.

“She was a single mother,” Misek said. “She was a queer. She was a Jewish poet, and she published so much work. But because of the time where mostly men were being published in the literature, she was not really given a voice.”

Misek continued.

“She’s important because she speaks to a lot of different identities,” Misek said. “Her feminism was way ahead of its time. She was exploring concepts we’re just starting to talk about—about gender and sexuality.”

Interests and careers in poetry were something Misek and Rukeyser have in common. From pretty early in high school, Misek realized her interests in poetry, and expressed her love for poetry as Rukeyser did in the 20th century through her publications.

When Misek was at Huron, her passion for poetry was stretched beyond just reading and writing. Various experiences in high school attracted her to a new field—education.

“I was the president of our poetry club for a few years because I always loved poetry,” Misek said. “I had Mr. Eldon for three years and he inspired me in poetry and teaching.”

Now, Misek is majoring in English Education at Eastern University and learning the way to teach poetry in EMU—the way that is different from the traditional way of learning poetry in the classroom.

“When I make lesson plans for poetry, I always want them to be accessible,” Misek said. “I’m not using some outdated 1800s poem. I’m using a lot of current poets because there’s so many.”

As she acknowledged the fears that many high school students have in their poetry activities, she developed different approaches.

Each event combines a staged reading of the play with lively conversation about Rukeyser and the great magician. The performance will be placed in March 26, 8 p.m. and March 27, 3 p.m. at Matrix Theater.

“I know it’s super intimidating when you’re given a poem to analyze and very technical,” Misek said. “But I always start with it as an emotional response to the poem. ‘What do you feel from it?’. It’s starting with the emotional response and then learning technique.”

From there, the project Houdini could not be more attractive to her. As a student assistant, she organized the Poetry Wall with YpsiWrites, which provided opportunities for the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti community to write the poem in response to the musical Houdini. 

“[The prompts are] inspired by the musical like ‘What does freedom mean to you?,’” Misek said. “We are still looking for poems. Just inspired about those and those are going to be put up on a wall with the Riverside Arts Center performance.”

Submissions from high school students are strongly encouraged.

“We would love more high schoolers to submit poetry,” Misek said. “I know with COVID high schools are having a really hard time. I think teen poets are amazing. So we just want to get young people writing more.”

Her enthusiasm for poetry and Rukeyser never stopped. In fact, Misek has been participating in other projects about Rukeyser. This summer, she got connected with a former student of Rukeyser who plans to publish the anthology of her poems.

“I had to read the whole play,” Misek said. “I’ve read all of her poetry. I had to read all those and then I chose ones that I think would be good for schoolers and teaching. I made that table of contents, writing the introduction and writing lesson plans for the book.”

The purpose of this anthology is a big part that attracts Misek into active involvement as an editor in the publication.

“We started to plan an anthology of her poems to be used for younger readers,” Misek said. “There’s not really a lot of collections that are published of her work so we’re hoping it’ll be more accessible for young people.”

To Misek, these various researches and projects about Rukeyser were something more than just assisting the project. It expanded her perspective in teaching poetry.

“I research new books of people who we don’t talk about different gender identities, different ethnicities, and religions,” Misek said. “It’s really exciting what teaching can be.”

Her beliefs in the power of poetry have not been changed; rather, it was expanded as she researched Rukeyser and her hard work in publication

“To me, poetry is very living,” Misek said. “[Poetry is something] everyone can write and read. And I have a big emphasis from Rukeyser. You know, poetry is for everyone.”

Four staged readings of Rukeyser’s musical Houdini will be placed on March 20, 24, 26 at Eastern Michigan University, Riverside Arts Center, and Matrix Theater. 

Visit the website to see Muriel Rukeyser’s Living Archive: http://murielrukeyser.emuenglish.org/