Chicago poet speaks about relationship between work, social issues


Brian Meng/The Daily Northwestern

Poet Eve Ewing speaks to students at a Northwestern Community Development Core event in Lutkin Hall on Tuesday. Ewing discussed how her poetry relates to social issues, including education and racial discrimination.

Anamaria Sayre, Reporter

Poet Eve Ewing read her work to students Tuesday while explaining how it interacts with social issues and hopes to create safe spaces for people to share their stories.

Ewing –– a sociologist, educator, social activist and avid Twitter user –– addressed an audience of about 35 in Lutkin Hall as part of a speaker series held by Northwestern Community Development Corps. During the event she talked about racial discrimination, police brutality and other social issues, all while reciting four of her own poems that she said embody the topics.

Noah Spector, co-chair of NCDC’s Dialogue Series, told The Daily the group’s mission is to engage the greater community outside NU.

“She does a lot of great work, so we thought it would be really great to bring her on campus and give students an opportunity to interact with her and learn about things that happen beyond campus,” the SESP sophomore said.

Ewing told The Daily her interest in the intersections of art and society — like how people respond to their social world through literature — led her to the work she performs now. She said she tries to imagine the world differently and engages her interests through various tools of expression.

She added that her experiences as a teacher influenced her work. Many of the issues she talks about are rooted in the education system, she said.

“When I became a teacher, it forced me to engage with the systems that make up our society in a different way,” Ewing said. “Every day I would have a room of young people in front of me facing all these challenges … that were much bigger and beyond us and beyond the classroom.”

As a scholar, Ewing said it is important to think about how society takes in facts and how people construct history. Some of her poems deal with the question of “which history counts,” she said.

Her goal, she said, is to get readers to envision a world in which progress exists and people are accepted and valued.

“I hope that it creates a space for people to imagine a different reality and a different world in a space that is unfettered by practicalities,” Ewing said. “Poetry is a space where you can imagine anything.”

Medill sophomore Benjamin Krieger told The Daily that to bring the change that Ewing emphasizes, the key is to be empathetic. He said people should open their eyes to the problems that may not affect them and understand others’ difficulties.

He added that though his experiences as a “cis white male” in society are far removed from many of the people who may read Ewing’s poems, that does not change the impact and the understanding which her words have on him.

“It just says that you have to call out little things that happen every day,” he said. “Every time you see something that’s not right, you have to try to step in when you can. Don’t let things that are little slide.”

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