Michael Hayes

By Stuart Miller '97
English Department Chair

As part of their visiting writing series, Berkshire's English Department, Writing Center, and Dean of Diversity and Inclusion were thrilled to invite Dr. Joshua Bennett to campus on Feb. 8. Bennett's reading during All-School Meeting was a masterful blend of his poetry and the life experiences that influence his work. Students and faculty were given the rare opportunity too see, first hand, how the craft of writing allows for profound personal expression. Hearing about the important role Bennett's father plays in his life to Bennett's view of love, those in the audience witnessed poems come to life—to feel the depth of an "old love," to feel the connection between a father and son.

Heidi Woodworth, history teacher, spoke of the impact of Bennett's visit: "To me, Joshua Bennett's performance showed the power of words and the way they can bring a group of people together, regardless of experience. His immense talents brought out a sense of empathy in our students that is so essential in this particular moment."

Sixth former, Nastya Romanova eloquently reflected: "His stunning passion for life, not only of his own but also of others, spread across the room like a purifying ceremonial smoke. With every line, with every poem he unobtrusively reached underneath my skin and evoked emotions that I hadn't known I could feel. He allowed his audience to own his writing, interpret it, imagine it soar into the sky of purple and blue jigsaw puzzles. His vulnerability was his power, his talent was his pathway."

After his reading, Bennett joined various English and history classes. Here, Bennnet shared his expertise around performance poetry, helping our third and fourth formers with their own performance pieces: Henry IV recitations and Poetry Out Loud! Using Bennett's suggestions, third formers approached their recitations and filming of various soliloquys from Henry IV with a strong appreciation for the spoken word. Fourth formers learned how each word in a poem, when spoken, can unlock new meanings.

"Joshua Bennett's visit to Berkshire was truly an eye-opening experience for me," said fifth former Daniel Akomolafe. "Honestly, he opened up my eyes to the possibilities of things you can do in your professional life. He has also shown me the many different ways the art can manifest itself as well as ways to cultivate that art."

Joshua Bennett had a far-reaching impact during his short visit. LeRhonda Greats, Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, added, "Having Joshua Bennett at Berkshire was a confirmation of the work of Diversity and Inclusion. His youth, talent and intellect really connected with our students." From an English standpoint, the opportunity for students to experience the power of the spoken (and written) word in such authentic manner is invaluable and hopefully empowers students to see the importance of writing.

"Good art tells on you; it reveals aspects of yourself you might not even realize." — Dr. Joshua Bennett