Nightingale Society Provides Space for Vulnerability Through Poetry – The Bowdoin Orient



Enduring the stress of the pandemic last school year, Paul Russo ’23 needed to relax and wanted to give other students the opportunity to do the same. Combining his love of poetry with a need for community, Paul formed the Nightingale Society, a club meant to foster vulnerability and connection for poets on campus.

The club focuses on using poetry as a way for students to be attentive, vulnerable and to relax. Club leaders Russo, Jade Cromwell ’23 and Anna Cox ’24 strive to create a space where students can develop a strong sense of community.

“English has always been my favorite subject, and I’ve always found writing to be a kind of therapy and I loved poetry,” Russo said. “What I felt I missed when I wrote on my own was a community of others to support me.”

During society meetings, members improve their poetry writing skills by working through different prompts. While the usual meeting is to freely write poems and share them out loud, the club also organizes different activities, such as editing movie scripts to create poems and haiku roulettes.

“We do fun things … while [other writing groups on campus] maybe write all the time and work in the studio depending on the quality of the writing, ”Russo said. “We really talk to each other, talk about each other’s life and we connect with that.”

During their weekly meetings, students are encouraged to be vulnerable and to use their writing as a window into their personal lives. Members of the group believe it is this vulnerability that separates them from other literary groups on campus.

“I would say it’s totally about the writing, but it’s more about [writers] and their well-being, making sure people feel supported by others and are in a good headspace, ”said Russo.

Group members can choose how vulnerable they want to be when sharing their compositions at club meetings. The group fosters a culture of respectability so that club members understand that the vulnerable poetry shared does not leave meetings.

“You can always share what the poem means to you, and you can also decide not to share why you wrote the poem,” club member Wilder Mae Harwood ’24 said. “So you can share these more intimate poems and maybe not give the background or you can. I did both and felt more comfortable depending on the night. I think it definitely stays with the people there and everyone is so respectful. “

After a full year online, this year marks the first time the club has been on campus after the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past year, the club struggled with online planning, so the transition was relatively easy and members welcomed the new format in person.

“We were thinking of [doing] in person in [the] spring, but it ended up getting complicated with who was there and a lot of our members were taking the semester or studying from home, ”said Cromwell. “We kept it virtual all year. So [it is] really interesting to see it now… since it’s the first time we’ve had it in person.

Finding members has been a challenge for the group, but the group leaders believe that whether a student new to the world of poetry or a seasoned veteran of poetry, the club has something to offer writers on the world. campus.

“I think we’re always looking for more people to come, and we would love to have more people to join,” Russo said.

The Nightingale Company meets weekly Wednesdays from 9:00 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. at the Lancaster Lounge, Moulton Union. To join, students must subscribe to the club’s mailing list through campus groups.


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