Poetry Club President Reflects on Legacy

By Atina Hartmann, Reporter

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When the bustling of after-school chatter has long faded and all the buses have rolled away, the empty halls are finally left alone. But on this particular Wednesday afternoon, not all of Westwood is vacant.

Inside the dimmed English room, all the members and their president watch as one of their members recites Poetry Club’s last spoken poem for the year. He delivers the words in a hard, tumbling voice like the world is falling from his tongue, almost encapsulated by the darkness, except for the projector’s cool gleam which turns him into a shadow. A thick book is clutched in his hand, while the pounding verses fill the room. But for President Vaishnavi Jayaraman ’19 it’s the story around the verses, she will treasure.

“Poetry Club is for budding artists who want to express [themselves] in any written form and want to listen to others writings. I love hearing from the source when people speak out their poetry and getting to see their creativity in play,” Jayaraman said.

Jayaraman is one of the many graduating seniors of the class of 2019, which means she is leaving her title of Poetry Club President behind. After three years in office, she’s witnessed how Poetry Club can bring out the vibrant imagination within all of its members.

“Getting to see how supportive people can be and how they build up each other’s confidence is something I’m really going to miss in the next few years,” Jayaraman said. “[I also like] getting to see when [the] prompt clicks in their head and they know exactly what to write.”

Although it’s a bittersweet departure, Jayaraman is confident the club will continue to build its reputation, while also hoping that a few key traditions are still kept, such as their annual Halloween contest. She also wishes that Poetry Club remain connected with their sponsor, Ms. Parks, and the librarians.

“Our connection with the library, especially with our April monthly poetry display, is something I really want to stay,” Jayaraman said. “I think the librarians and future officers will really appreciate having that relationship.”

At the time of being elected leader, Jayaraman had just moved from India to Austin. So when the previous leader was seeking an adequate replacement, she seized the opportunity with great enthusiasm. It was a big “confidence booster” for the young freshman, who was still finding her place in a new country and school.

“It was one of the best moments of my entire life,” Jayaraman said. “For someone to have so much faith and to believe in me. She was the founder, and for that, it felt surreal.”

However, in being both the leader of a social organization and juggling academics, she was bound to face some challenges along the way.

“School gets really stressful,” Jayaraman said, “but if you’re going to spend your time here, you might as well get the best out of it. Be honest about what you can and can’t do and communicate, it’s the answer to pretty much anything.”

While Jayaraman was just discovering leadership skills, poetry was more than familiar to her, long before any involvement in the club. Thanks to strong family values centered around literature, her family played a core influence in pursuing her writing.

“My older sister is my greatest influence in life,” said Jayaraman. “She has been writing poetry since she was five, [she’s] one of the best poets I know, a natural born leader, very hardworking and determined. She’s the reason why I went into poetry.”  

In fact, she actually comes from a noteworthy family of writers who all share a similar prestige for knowledge and the written word.

“My mom is an English major, and many of my aunts were poets, so I come from a family where poetry and reading are given a lot of importance and significance.”

Of course, Jayaraman equally takes pride in her Indian culture which naturally is reflected in her own writings.

“I always picture myself riding on a train,” Jayaraman said. “Indian train journeys are the best, nearly always I’m in travel with my writing, or when it’s raining, because Indian rain is the best rain ever.”

Some of her written poems reflect back to her origins or to more personal experiences.

“A lot of my writing talks about freedom,” said Jayaraman. “[About] how much I’ve grown moving to the states. Tamil spoken poet, Subramania Bharati (from the same language region) has definitely inspired some of the themes I’ve written about, at times it feels like I’m connecting to my family’s past.”

When it comes to her future, Jayaraman keeps an open mind, to see what other opportunities may lie ahead. HAving been accepted to the University of Houston, Jayaraman reflects on her years in Poetry Club.

“There is so much [I’ve gained],” Jayaraman said “Over the past few years I’ve learned to stick up for myself and be far more trustworthy and accountable. Although I make mistakes I can trust myself to be right at times and respect different people perspectives.”

Jayaraman’s time to reflect on Poetry Club increases with graduation nearing. The end of high school signifies the beginning of a new chapter.  Jayaraman’s experience as an artistic leader will remain alongside her beyond Westwood, always a reminder that lessons can be written from the past.