Poetry Project Pairs Eastlake Police Officers and Students

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In response to the issue of conflict between police officers and community members seen across the country, Cleveland poets Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger are using poetry to build a bridge.

"I know poets work with doctors, and I thought, 'how come there aren't any poets working with police officers?'  I have a police officer in my family, and my husband and I work a lot with students," Holbrook said.

With a Library Services and Technology Act grant, the Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library enlisted the husband-and-wife poets to create a new police-student poetry program, If These Streets Could Talk.

"I just got the idea to put students together with police officers and talk about the subject of conflict," Holbrook said.

When Eastlake Police Chief Larry Reik was first approached to volunteer a few of his officers he was hesitant.

"You tell most cops, 'hey, I want you in a poetry class' you're going to get some jeers and some resistance," Reik said.

One of the Eastlake police officers, Kris Korun, worked with students from Eastlake Middle School.

"I've never written poetry in my life so having to learn how to write it and then to do it, it was a new thing and a little out of my comfort zone," Korun said.

Holbrook and Salinger were impressed with the poems that the cops wrote because of their unique perspectives.

"We emphasize to people who aren't used to writing poetry that it is creative nonfiction. So that's where we met; that we were going to write about real events," said Holbrook.

The students and police officers share their poems Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Eastlake City Hall.

Listen to Dan Polletta's interview with Sara Holbrook, Eastlake Police Chief Larry Reik and Detective Kris Korun on Monday, February 13 at 12:33 p.m. on 90.3 during Here and Now featuring the Sound of Applause.

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