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Good Thunder Reading Series Reaches Out to Community

Partnership with Aktion Club Theatre provides opportunities for learning to write poetry.

Kristine Goodrich, Mankato Free Press, 4-10-2016

Alocal group of artists is proof that people with intellectual disabilities can accomplish most anything, including writing captivating poetry.

A partnership between Minnesota State University, Mankato and Aktion Club Theatre is providing 10 budding bards the opportunity to not only learn about and pen poetry, but also to share it with audiences.

Twice a month for over a year, Minnesota State Mankato graduate students Taylor Tolchin and Kate MacLamb have been leading a poetry club with members of varied ages and disabilities.

The Aktion Poetry Club is a subgroup of Aktion Club Theatre, a community performance group comprised of people of disabilities.

The poetry club is an outreach of the Good Thunder Reading Series, a Minnesota State Mankato initiative that has been bringing authors and poets to the community for more than 30 years.

The club’s leaders are volunteers who are studying creative writing.

Tolchin said her favorite part of leading the club is getting to know the participants.

“They’re a very thoughtful and talented group,” she said. “They find beauty all over. Their dedication to art is truly exciting.”

From stanzas and blank verse to rhyme and alliteration, the poetry pupils learned the types and components of poetry. After hearing examples ranging from William Shakespeare to Maya Angelou, they penned their own poems ranging from sonnets to acrostics.

“I love poetry club because it lets me express myself,” said member Heather Bell. “It’s great being a part of poets club because you feel inspired and positive about yourself,” said participant Nate Clark.

Tolchin said she encouraged her group to draw from their own experiences and aspirations to inspire their poems.

The results included lyrical reports about their family members and jobs and tales of walking a dog and Christmas celebrations.

In a poem about best friends, Ambry Brave Heart describes them as “my apple to my pie, my chocolate to my sundae.

The first stanza of Michelle Hermanson’s poem titled “Believe in Yourself” encourages readers to “Set your standards high. You deserve the best. Try for what you want and never settle for less.”

After a practice reading Tuesday in front of their friends in Aktion Club, the Aktion poets held a community reading at the Arts Center of St. Peter on Thursday. Each poet picked one or a few favorite works to read.

The poets also got to see their work in print. Tolchin and MacLamb assembled the favorite poems into books that were distributed at the reading.

The Aktion Poetry Club, which meets the first and third Tuesday of each month at Centenary United Methodist Church, is one of four such writing groups sponsored by the Good Thunder Reading Series.

According to the series’ website, when Diana Joseph became its director in 2014 she established Good Thunder Presents, bringing writing workshops off campus to community groups.

There presently also are ongoing workshops at Ecumen Pathstone Living senior community, the REACH Drop-In Center for homeless teens and at the CADA shelter for women fleeing domestic violence. From 2-3 p.m. April 18, the community is invited to hear members of the Pathstone group will read some of their poetry and prose.

There have been other past partnerships as well. Before Aktion, Tolchin helped lead a workshop with adults with developmental disabilities at the Harry Meyering Center.

The Aktion poets will read their work at least one more time.

Sponsored by The Arc Minnesota Southwest, the Kiwanis Club and Access Program, Aktion Club Theater uses theatrical performances to raise awareness about issues impacting people with disabilities.

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at

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