The Body Electric is Penn’s poetry writing group based in the Kelly Writers House. Named after a Walt Whitman poem, the club aims to foster a collaborative space for poets to workshop and share each other’s writing.
Every Wednesday night, the group starts with a short writing session and then workshops a student’s poem, collectively editing and giving feedback to the author. Members are also welcome to submit their piece beforehand to have it reviewed during the meeting. At the end of each fall semester, they host a poetry reading to showcase members’ work. Founded in 2013, The Body Electric is now run by co–chairs Maya Levine (C’18) and Regina Salmons (C’18).
Levine, an English major concentrating in Medieval and Renaissance literature, joined the group her sophomore year. She has seen herself improve as a writer ever since. “We just want to be a resource for students who want to be around a community of poets,” Levine said. “I think it’s a very different culture compared to more pre–professional groups at Penn. Every week I know I’m going to spend an hour snacking and talking about poetry in a very low–stress environment.”
The group takes trips to The Pigeon, a poetry slam in downtown Philadelphia, which takes place on the first Friday of every month at PhilaMoca. They also host “poetry and chill” after meetings where they convene at a board member’s apartment to drink wine and play word games.
“I think it’s important to promote art on campus, period,” said Salmons, an English major concentrating in creative writing. “Everyone comes from totally different backgrounds, so we have nurses, philosophers, and engineers. The club is open to anyone who wants to learn about poetry and eat expensive cheese.”
Michael Monroe (C’18), a psychology major, serves as the treasurer of the club. “Just coming to meetings has helped refine my writing,” Monroe said. “You experience so many different perspectives from this avenue of self–expression.”
The Body Electric meets every Wednesday at 8 p.m. in Room 202 at the Writers House. On Nov. 30 at 6 p.m., the group will jointly host their first poetry reading of the semester with Pen and Paper, the prose writing club.
“There’s no such thing as bad poetry,” Salmons said. “Everyone can and should be a writer.”