Poetic Justice

If Lu Olkowski’s In Verse doesn’t garner a slew of media awards this year, I’ll be surprised and disappointed.

It’s true that Lu’s MQ2 project isn’t the first to blend powerful images and visceral poetry to tackle a tough social issue. LiveHopeLove, from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, about HIV in Jamaica, has won several honors – a People’s Voice Webby and an Emmy for News & Docs. It’s an awesome, beautiful and haunting multimedia project by photographer Josh Cogan, who also worked on In Verse.

But Lu’s project just got into Harvard, so to speak. The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University has named In Verse a “Notable Narrative.” Nieman just published in-depth coverage of In Verse on Nieman Storyboard, a site dedicated to “highlighting outstanding print narratives” and featuring “the best examples of visual, audio and multimedia narrative reporting.” 

In her interview with Nieman Storyboard, Lu said, “One reason I like this project is that poetry sticks with people…It can reach into a psychological state of people in a way that a traditional journalist couldn’t get the time to do or wouldn’t do.”

Will poetry save the soul of journalism? “Poetry seems unlikely to replace standard print narratives and even less likely to supplant the inverted pyramid,” writes Nieman editor Andrea Pitzer, “but its future and the future of news may be bound together at the margins. We are just beginning to imagine how both will evolve and the ways in which they might work together in narrative reporting.”

High fives and Ivy League handshakes to Lu and her collaborators: Ted Genoways of Virginia Quarterly Review, poets Susan B.A. Somers-Willett and Natasha Trethewey, photographers Josh Cogan and Brenda Ann Kenneally and Studio360 from PRI.