Poetry collective ADDverse+Poesia hopes to show poetry is for everyone

By Gabriella Garvin, Staff Writer

It’s pretty typical for college campuses to have clubs for writing or literature, but what makes the Pitt poetry collective ADDverse+Poesia stand out is its emphasis on highlighting BIPOC writers and providing them with a safe space, according to Carolina Hernandez, a doctoral student in the sociology department and ADDverse+Poesia’s secretary of creativity.

“If you need to decompress, read affirming, beautiful poems, meditate a bit or just hang out — ADDverse is the group for you,” Hernandez said.

ADDverse+Poesia is a transnational and multilingual poetry collective that shares the stories and works of art from underrepresented communities in society — including but not limited to the LGBTQ+ community, the Black community, Indigenous individuals and people living with disabilities.

The group is currently composed of 32 members, and meets every Thursday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Posvar Hall’s Global Hub.

Luana Reis, the founder and president of ADDverse+Poesia, said she created the organization in an effort to create a safe space for important conversations regarding society outside of the classroom.

“I started this collective out of the necessity of having a safe space to discuss important topics in our society such as Blackness, queerness and diversity in general,” Reis, a doctoral student in the Hispanic languages and literatures department, said. “I was teaching an advanced-level course of Portuguese at the time, and I felt the need to to talk about these topics with students outside of the classroom environment.”

Reis said as a Black feminist poet, she was unable to seperate the intersectionality of her passion and identity, leading to the club’s focus on poetry, which allowed the organization to expand the number of languages it focused on.

“As a Black feminist poet and researcher of contemporary Black Brazillian women poetry, I cannot seperate my life experiences, research interest and my teaching,” Reis said. “We met once a week to read, discuss, translate and write poems in Portuguese. Then we started to include poems in Spanish because many of my students were also Spanish majors.”

Hernandez said what she likes most about the organization is the community ADDverse has to offer.

“ADDverse is such a wonderful and welcoming space, especially for Black, Indigenous and LGBTQ+ students,” Hernandez said. “My favorite part has been the strong sense of community — how supportive everyone is of each other — and getting to read and translate Black, queer and Indigenous poetry, of course.”

Image courtesy of Luana Reis

Board member Darrelstan Ferguson, a doctoral student in the Hispanic languages and literatures department, said he loves the diversity that unites the ADDverse community and allows it to connect with other communities.

“I love the diversity of our organization. We’re racially, culturally, linguistically, sexually diverse and more. Because of this, we’ve been able to forge connections with similarly diverse poets and scholars from all over the world, who’ve gifted us with amazing talks each academic year,” Ferguson said. “We’ve found strength in our diversity and common love for poetry.”

Reis said the organization works with a variety of languages and members of Pitt’s campus, including students and faculty.

“Today, ADDverse works mainly with English, French, Spanish and Portuguese, but we also have members who speak Tagalog and Arabic,” Reis said. “We translated a poem into Tagalog this year. We have the participation of undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty from the University of Pittsburgh — and people from the community.”

Hernandez said ADDverse has allowed her to find comfort and enjoyment outside of the pressures of academia.

“As a graduate student, ADDverse has been a lifeline for me,” Hernandez said. “It’s easy to get caught up by the pressures of graduate school. So it’s been a joy meeting regularly with friends to discuss our mutual passion for poetry, to share our weekly challenges and accomplishments and to celebrate the work of marginalized artists and scholars.”

Reis said the organization is looking to get more funding to expand programming.

“What I would love to accomplish with ADDverse moving forward is to have more financial support to create an arts festival,” Reis said. “To gather amazing artists committed to social justice to help us build a powerful space in which the beautiful diversity of our society is valued, celebrated and respected.”

Reis also said if given more financial support, ADDverse would like to publish a collection of the group’s work.

“We would love to publish a multilingual poetry anthology to disseminate the poems written by members of the group,” Reis said.

Hernandez said the organization places a strong emphasis on the fact that poetry is not a luxury, but a necessity.

“Our ADDverse motto is, ‘Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence,’ which is a quote from the work of Audre Lorde,” Hernandez said. “This really rings true for all of us in the group.”

Ferguson said the group would love for more community members to attend its meetings so ADDverse’s love of poetry can expand to a wider group of people.

“We would love it if anyone reading this would seriously consider attending at least one of our meetings,” Ferguson said. “We know that poetry doesn’t appeal to everyone, but we aim to show otherwise — that poetry is for everyone because it accommodates all our whims and fancies. We can make poetry whatever we want it to be by expressing ourselves in the magic of words.”