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The Dartmouth
February 24, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Spilled Ink provides an inclusive and encouraging space for writing poetry

Spilled Ink is the only active poetry club on campus, offering a welcoming space for writers at Dartmouth.

Michaela Benton Courtesy Photo.jpg

Led by Michaela Benton ’22, Spilled Ink is the only active poetry club on campus, meeting on Mondays at 6 p.m. in Carpenter 201C. Benton, who founded the club, said Spilled Ink is a welcoming space for writers. 

“At its heart, [Spilled Ink] is a small, warm community around a table, just writing and sharing and supporting each other,” Benton said. 

The idea behind Spilled Ink can be traced back to 2016, when Benton started a poetry club with the same name at her high school. Five years later, in the winter of 2022, Benton decided to launch a second iteration of the club here at Dartmouth, compelled to provide a new space for writing and sharing poetry after the pandemic.

“There used to be a different poetry club on campus,” Benton said. “But over the course of the pandemic, it kind of died out, and I thought that there was definitely a need for a kind of a casual student organization where you can express yourself through writing — specifically poetry.”

According to Benton, her inspiration for the club’s name largely stemmed from the symbolism of traditional writing implements, particularly in the literary community.

“I was inspired by the different kinds of writing utensils that were used throughout history, and the first things that were used,” Benton said. “Especially in the English tradition, [people used]  feather quills and ink bottles. I thought that it was interesting how, if you spilled an ink bottle on what you’re writing, that entire thing was kind of ruined.”  

The name also takes inspiration from Black culture, which is consistent with the club’s emphasis on spoken word poetry and its “roots being in the Black community and social justice.” Benton said she was inspired by the Black community and the concept of “spilling the tea.”  

“Spilled Ink is about telling poetic truths and also calling on that legacy of the Black community, as well as more traditional English writing techniques,” Benton said.

Spoken word poetry is the “most popular variety” at Spilled Ink, particularly because of its “strong political message” and its ability to give “voices to marginalized communities,” according to Benton. However, Spilled Ink encourages the creation and sharing of all kinds of poetry. The club currently facilitates an eight-week poetry writing intensive over the Spring term, with each week centering on a different form of poetry. 

Hannah Beitchman ’26, a member of the club, said she appreciates that Spilled Ink provides an open, honest space for discussing poetry. 

“You can be very candid about your opinions about the types of poetry we’re writing,” Beitchman said. “You can be very honest about how you don’t like a lot of poetry. It already feels like a very honest space from when you enter, which is really nice.” 

Beitchman also reflected on how Spilled Ink also creates a space for people of varying experiences with poetry. All members are encouraged to participate, no matter their experience.

“It’s really amazing how low the stakes are,” Beitchman said. “There’s no pressure to have anything that’s polished, or to have had a lot of experience. It’s somewhere for you to write really freely, but also you hear everyone’s poems, and it’s such a range. Some people have really clearly been writing poetry for so long, and then [there are] people who are new.”

Sophia Rubens ’24, another member of the club, said that she did not have an interest in poetry until a teacher in high school exposed her to different forms of poetry.

Rubens added that she joined Spilled Ink because she was “excited to write in a more writing-dedicated environment again,” describing the club as a space that encourages and supports its members through inclusivity and diversity of both people and poetry. 

“[Spilled Ink] is open to campus and presents a new topic every week, and it happens kind of quickly,” Rubens said. “It’s not a big time commitment, but it’s sort of something that you can come back to if you choose, and you can just pass through if that’s your preference.” 

Spilled Ink invites members from all majors and disciplines to participate in their weekly meetings. According to Benton, Spilled Ink has a variety of members who are majoring in STEM, but who “still crave a writing [or] artistic outlet.” In addition to being open to students of all academic disciplines, Spilled Ink prides itself on being open to all members of the Dartmouth community, including graduate students and alumni. 

“We actually have a member that’s an alum that comes to our meetings,” Benton said. “We specifically have put our posters somewhere where graduate students, alums, med school students, business students will see them so that they can know that Spilled Ink isn’t just for undergrads — even though it is run by undergrads — but that it’s also for anyone who loves poetry.”

Emily Chang ’25 came to Spilled Ink “in search of potential songwriters who might also have an interest in bridging music and poetry.” She described her first experience at Spilled Ink as “comforting” due to the intimate nature of the meeting, and she expressed appreciation for the way that Benton approached the process of writing poetry.  

“[Benton] treated [poetry] as a celebration of our creativity, rather than a process where we would be critiqued, or [where] our work had to fit a certain standard to be complimented or admired,” Chang said.

Reflecting on the potential value of poetry for other members of the Dartmouth community, Benton said that due to the nature and intensity of Dartmouth’s term system, there is very little time to sit back and think about daily experiences. 

“Poetry can definitely be a kind of mindfulness practice, and it can definitely help you get in touch with parts of your mind that you usually ignore,” Benton said.

According to Benton, Spilled Ink is planning a Poetry Slam for the end of Spring term, as a way to give club members an opportunity “to share what they’ve been working on throughout the term.”