VALLUM SOCIETY FOR EDUCATION IN ARTS AND LETTERS
Vallum Society for Education in Arts & Letters (VSEAL) is a federally incorporated charity committed to the dissemination of literary and aesthetic education in Canada and internationally. VSEAL’s goal is to encourage and support poets, writers, and artists at all stages of their career, while offering the public relevant tools for a better understanding and appreciation of contemporary poetry and literature.
VSEAL’s publishing projects include the biannual Vallum: Contemporary Poetry magazine and the Vallum Chapbook Series. In order to further fulfill its goal of promoting literacy within the local, Montreal community, VSEAL also administers an outreach program, Poetry for our Future!, which hosts workshops in schools, shelters, and charitable organizations throughout the city, and occasionally in Ontario. These workshops focus on literacy, creative writing, literary appreciation, and self-expression as empowerment.
VSEAL began its mission in 2003, conducting workshops in 2nd and 3rd grade classes of Lasalle elementary schools incorporated in the English Montreal School Board (EMSB). Over the following three years, VSEAL gradually expanded its program to include high schools within the EMSB, such as Westmount High and various alternative, outreach high schools. This high school expansion was made possible through the dedicated work of both Sandra Erickson, an established Vermont poet, and Michael Sweet, a Montreal-based educator, writer, and street photographer.
In 2008, VSEAL introduced workshops for adults, collaborating with Chez Doris, a women’s shelter dedicated to providing educational, recreational, social, and professional services for women in need. Thanks to the hard work of poet Ilona Martonfi, this program is still in place today. Similarly, in 2009, VSEAL administered a program in the McGill Retirement Centre, operating workshops designed to educate and stimulate the centre’s residents through the use of poetry.
Over the past decade, VSEAL has consistently been expanding its reach, and revising its partnerships to include a wider range of demographics that respond to society’s current, changing needs. Some of these partnerships include, or have included, the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, the AQPA Aphasia Clinic, Spectrum Productions for autistic learners, the South Asian Youth Centre, Reclaim Literacy, the Quebec Public Interests Research Group, the Phoebe Heintzman Hopes Dance Academy, and Word On the Street Festival in Toronto. For a full list of host organizations, please view the Partners page.
VSEAL recently increased the number of workshops from 25 to 35 per year for 2017, thanks to the hard work and dedication of its staff, poets, educators, volunteers, and donors.
POETRY FOR OUR FUTURE! COMMUNITY OUTREACH PROGRAM
Poetry for our Future! divides its resources between two key demographics, namely youth and adult learners, primarily from underserved, low-income communities, and single-parent homes. Impacting children at a young age is vital to the development of a vibrant, literate, and cultured society, especially as these children mature into adults. By the same token, reaching adults who might not have had the advantages of a balanced education is an integral service to help people achieve their full potential later in life. Well-adjusted adults are also often in parenting or mentoring relationships with children, so that strengthening one generation strengthens the next generation and thereby society as a whole.
Each workshop pairs an established, local poet and educator with a host organization, aiming to expose marginalized communities to some of the best contemporary literature, to inspire, to spark new talent, and to bridge demographics that might not otherwise have the opportunity to engage with one another. Using Vallum: Contemporary Poetry as an educational tool, and providing a year-long magazine subscription to each host organization, the workshops themselves are each tailored to the needs or restrictions of a particular group of participants, committed to creating an approachable, education, recreational, and safe environment for poetry to flourish.
Interested in having a poetry-based workshop at your organization? Visit our Get Involved page for all the info!
• “I learned different techniques on how to write poems and not to be afraid to express myself.”—Sierra, 18
• “I gained insight into the process of editing one’s work and benefitting from others’ criticism.”—Jean, 19
• “It was great. Keep encouraging young writers.”
• “It gave me insight on contemporary poetry. I’ve never really had the chance to read any.”
Boys and Girls’ Club of LaSalle:
• “It opened up my eyes.”—Tyler, 15
• “It made me understand poetry better and use my head.”—Anthony, 17
• “I learned how to be open about my feelings and I do love writing.”—Faith, 10
Chez Doris Women’s Shelter:
• “If I were to choose a theme for today to portray the feeling of what I have experienced, it would be hope. I feel hopeful about the future and have enjoyed sharing. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share with the others. Expression of your innermost feeling with people who are open to receive is priceless.”—Maria
• “I enjoyed this time to express my feelings and experiences, because I keep my thoughts to myself. I would not change anything. I like your ideas, thoughts. I believe one should be poetic, true, safe, lovable, happy. It was an enjoyable time. Thank you for sharing.”—Evelyn
Association Québécoise des Personnes Aphasiques:
• “I enjoyed the poet—his ideas and presentation was quite clear and really did inspire and challenge me.”
• “I would like more workshops for reading and poetry... It was excellent.”
• "It not only helped me to write but helped me to clarify my own thoughts about poetry and prose, and enriched my knowledge & understanding through discussion with other participants."—Natasha, 41
• "I felt encouraged to try and write poetry again which I have not done since high school."—Joyce