CREATE! Micro-Grant Project Examines Mental Health Through Poetry

As a recipient of a 2023 CREATE! Micro-Grant, Rose Butler-Shriner, a senior English major with a concentration in Creative Writing, used the funding to write an inspirational poem that shines a spotlight on the struggle between mental health and hope.

This poem, Ars Poetica: Just a Poem, explores the feeling of being overloaded and the inability to focus on mental health. 

“There is little forgiveness in the due dates we face today, whether this is a homework assignment or the bill for rent. I wanted my poem to reflect the overflowing that begins when we inevitably get behind,” Butler-Shriner said. “Ars Poetica: Just a Poem draws attention to the direct effect of having too many things on your plate, when it is near impossible to find the balance in our lives. In our hustle culture, there isn’t really a space or time to sit down and accept your mental health.”

Photo of person smiling in front of brick building outdoors.
Rose Butler-Shriner

Butler-Shriner said this overload can cause students to “turn to desperation before they turn to hope.” She set out to capture the importance of having hope in places where it is easy to turn to desperation.

“I want students to know that there is a way to use hopefulness as a coping mechanism, even temporarily, even as time passes,” she said.

Butler-Shriner said her twin sister is a big source of support for her work. 

“My twin sister is the one person in my life who has never failed to offer me the kind of support that I need as a student and a writer,” she said. “I feel lucky because, for many students, sharing a piece of vulnerable art or writing with a family member is an extremely difficult thing.” 

Besides her twin, she also credits the professors at MSU who “never say no to lending an eye” for her work.

“The liberal arts community at MSU has inspired me to go beyond my journal,” she said. “From professors to students, there is a close-knit community that provides a sense of safety and togetherness.”

“The liberal arts community at MSU has inspired me to go beyond my journal. From professors to students, there is a close-knit community that provides a sense of safety and togetherness.”

Since she was a kid, Butler-Shriner has enjoyed writing, and after taking an introductory poetry class in high school, she said she fell in love with the art.

“In high school, given all that time in quarantine, I wrote about everything we were going through,” she said. “My devotion to poetry came out during that time and, when I got to college, I realized there were multiple ways to pursue it in and outside the classroom.”

Butler-Shriner currently is the events coordinator of a creative writing student organization on campus that encourages an outlet for poetry and fiction. She also is an assistant for the Art Library and helps the Arts and Collection Department with an initiative called Arts4U in which she gets to “put art and music in places on campus that you wouldn’t expect to see art and music.”

“Seeing faculty and students’ reaction to live music is a really sweet thing,” she said. “As much as I love music, there is also a big lyrical aspect of it that relates to poetry.”

Butler-Shriner plans to graduate in Spring 2024 and continue pursuing her love of writing. 

She offers this advice for other MSU students: “Explore all the options — there are a ton of things that you can do. Try to keep and curate relationships with professors, especially those who are reading work that can be vulnerable and intimidating because they really get to know you through that. Form your community.”

Butler-Shriner was one of 13 Michigan State University students to receive a CREATE! Micro-Grant in 2023. The winning proposals each were awarded $500 to be used to produce the proposed projects, which are showcased in an online exhibition.

The CREATE! Micro-Grant program, offered by MSU’s College of Arts & Letters and facilitated by the Dean’s Arts Advisory Council with support from the MSU Federal Credit Union and departments across the university, encourages Michigan State University students to critically engage through art with the past, present, or future while allowing them to explore current events and issues through mediums such as art, dance, film, poetry, and song.