Illuminated Verses, Post-Symposium Report
Illuminated Verses explored issues of traditional culture and modernity, as well as differences and diversity within the Islamic world, and offers an interpretive bridge to these content areas for both scholarly and general audiences. Through a symposium and a series of pre-events leading up to that program, Poets House and CityLore explored ways of using poetry, discussion and interpretation of poetry to create bridges for intercultural understanding. The symposium and pre-symposium events also served as a springboard to explore the potential for a broader, potentially national, program. This report draws from panelists and audience members to inform planning and decision making for the symposium and for future programs. This summative report employed pre-program interviews with participants, observational study of the program, review of transcripts, and post-program surveys of participants. Key findings: Panelists viewed the mission as being: laudable, interesting, useful, politically and culturally timely, worthwhile, and noble. Panelist's goals included their own personal goals, such as having the opportunity to learn from and interact with other panelists, their goals for their presentations and the potential impact to the audience. Panelists valued their involvement in the project and see it as an important opportunity for growth and education for both the event attendees and the panelists themselves. Event attendees had a high level of educational achievement and had specific interests in cultural issues and poetry. Event attendees claimed to have gained new knowledge of Muslim culture, religion and poetry through attending the program events. Symposium attendees were highly engaged, and active in participating in the question and answer periods in ways that contributed to developing a larger cultural vision. The panelists and respondents who participated in the Sunday Planning Forum were active and engaged in the larger town hall style discussion. The panelists and respondents at the Sunday Planning Forum actively contributed to developing a long range vision and demonstrated substantial investment in achieving a shared vision. The planning forum developed series of clear and coherent ideas for programming and funding an ongoing effort to advance key humanities questions surrounding cultural understanding with with specific target audiences. Many of the forum participants remained engaged in the project after their attendance, expressing interest in being involved in future programming or suggesting areas they might develop as off-shoots to the main program in their own communities. Sunday planning forum participants felt the forum was positive and socially beneficial. Sunday planning forum participants viewed the forum process as effective and engaging. Based on the objectives outlined for the program in the original application for grant funding to the National Endowment for the Humanities, these results suggest that the program achieved its goals. The appendix of this report includes an interview protocol and surveys used in the study.