Speaker to Share How He Used Poetry to Heal Children

While visiting campus, Poet Spencer Reece will introduce a screening of the film inspired by his experiences in Honduras.

Nov. 9, 2017

BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— As part of his national tour, award-winning poet Spencer Reece will discuss his own poetry as well as the poetry of the girls from Our Little Roses, an orphanage in Honduras where Reece worked as a poetry workshop leader. The reading will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 4 p.m. at the Merwin Gallery of the Ames School of Art (6 Ames Plaza West, Bloomington).

At 7 p.m. the same day, Reece will introduce a screening in the Beckman Auditorium of Voices Beyond the Wall: Twelve Love Poems from the Murder Capital of the World , a film that documents Reece's time in Honduras.

A poet and Episcopal priest in Madrid, Spain, Reece earned a Fulbright Scholarship in 2012 to teach poetry to children at Our Little Roses, an orphanage in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Both a home and school, Our Little Roses was founded in 1988 for abused and abandoned girls in San Pedro Sula, a city ranked second for the world’s highest per capita murder rate.

For one year, Reece used poetry to help girls in the orphanage overcome abuse, violence and neglect. The book, Counting Time Like People Count Stars , includes works by 24 of the children. Published by Northwestern University Press, the book will be available to purchase at the film screening and poetry reading. Directed by Brad Coley with James Franco as executive producer, the film that will be presented at the screening chronicles the experiences of the girls as they write their life stories.

The author of The Clerk’s Tale and The Road to Emmaus, Reece is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Witter Bynner fellowship from the Library of Congress. He has received multiple awards including the Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship and a Whiting Writers’ Award. After graduating from Wesleyan University with a bachelor of arts degree, Reece earned his master of arts at the University of York, a master of theological studies at Harvard Divinity School, and a master of divinity at Yale Divinity School.

Chaepter Negro '19, a member of Illinois Wesleyan’s Interfaith, a Registered Student Organization dedicated to fostering religious diversity, said that Reece’s work exemplifies Interfaith’s mission.

“From an interfaith perspective, it’s important that Reece is crossing divides,” Negro said. “Being an Episcopal priest, that is not a huge part of what he’s doing – a lot of it just comes down to human rights work. It shows that regardless of what specific religion or specific worldview you have, you’re still willing to meet other people in the middle to help other people and to find common ground.”

Negro said that people like Reece show the importance in combining faith with the humanities and the arts to foster change.

“The fact that Reece himself went to one of the most dangerous places in Central America to work with these girls and teach them poetry shows that he obviously has some type of belief in the power of how art can change people and help them escape from an otherwise awful situation,” Negro said.

Reece’s visit is sponsored by the International Studies Program, the Chaplain’s Office, the Hispanic Studies Department, and the English Department.

By Vi Kakares '20