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Nonprofit Challenges Writers and Community Leaders to "Do Thy Will"

The St. Louis Poetry Center hosted its annual fundraiser Sunday afternoon at Blueberry Hill.

Joe Edwards' Delmar Loop concert venue played host to a from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday.

The St. Louis Poetry Center held its annual fundraiser downstairs in 's Duck Room. The Center adopted the sonnets of Shakespeare as its theme, inviting 14 writers, professors, actors and community leaders to read or recite a sonnet of their choosing. The punning fundraiser title of "Do Thy Will" encouraged speakers to provide their own artistic interpretations of William Shakespeare's 14-line classics.

Funds raised by the event's admission price, as well as from silent auction items ranging from books to artworks, went toward sustaining the nonprofit organization. Champagne and hors d'oeuvres were included in the cost of admission.

The event's performers included William H. Gass, a literary giant and Professor Emeritus at Washington University, St. Louis Ward Alderman Lyda Krewson, Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts founder Emily Pulitzer and David Clewell, the poet laureate of Missouri.

The center presents year-round poetry readings and writers' workshops and conducts an outreach program that brings poetry educators to elementary, middle and high schools across the Greater St. Louis area.

"I think it definitely reinforces the importance of reading, which is very important at their age," said board member and outreach organizer Marie Chewe-Elliot. "What we see is that there's always a request for a poet-educator to come back ... We could probably double or triple our outreach if we could get some corporate sponsors."

The organization currently subsists on individual donations, grants, membership fees, funds donated by the and Missouri Arts Council and money raised at annual events.

In addition to its after-school outreach programs and public readings, the nonprofit has promoted literacy at the county jail and maintains a newsletter and website, Executive Director Nancy Hughes said.

"We feel that poetry can give people their voice, just like any art form," Hughes said. "We find poetry to be very powerful for the individual."

Not to mention cheap. The only materials required for a budding poet are paper and a pencil, she said.

Those interested can make a donation or see a list of upcoming events on the Center's website.

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