Support Your Local Poet

My creative writing teacher from high school always said poetry was written to be read aloud. I never really understood what she meant until I attended Melissa Green and Meg Tyler’s poetry reading this past Wednesday night for my Literary Citizenship class.

I’ve always had an interest in poetry since I was a child and my mother would read me Shel Silverstein before bed. This interest soon developed into a love for writing and numerous afternoons spent writing pages of pose both good and bad. Since I already liked the subject, and didn’t want to stress about finding the time to attend a literary event at the end of the semester, this seemed like the perfect time for me to buck up and write a blog post for the class blog. Prior to attending this event I had little to no idea what to expect. I’d never heard of either of these poets and a google search procured few helpful results. I had also never been to a poetry reading before. I had a multitude of questions: What do I wear? Should I snap once they finish reading or was that just a gross cliché? Would I know anyone there? Should I prepare questions to ask? Where even is the poetry center?

Basically I was clueless, but I’ve found that when I have no expectations I usually end up having the best time. With all these thoughts running through my head I donned my best turtleneck, grabbed my notebook and glasses, and made my way up to the poetry center on the second floor of the Sawyer library (located in 73 Tremont).

I found the room easily enough, following another student who looked like the type that would be attending a poetry reading, and settled for a seat in the back. The room was filled with teachers from the English department but a few students were scattered amongst the crowd. There was free coffee in the back which I was endlessly thankful for, having a large amount of homework waiting for me back in my dorm.

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The night kicked off with Meg Tyler who read from her collection of poems titled Poor Earth. Each piece was breathtaking in its own right with clear, concise imagery. Her poems had a lot of movement to them and an immense amount of power behind them despite their simplicity. I’m always in awe of the way poets can pull at your heart with the simplest lines. One of her poems, I regretfully forget the name, was about picking up her daughter from school. There was a part where her daughter exits the school and looks around fearfully like she expected her mother to be missing from the crowd but Tyler exclaimed, “I am always there”. A simple line in itself but it reminded me of a story my mom tells about when I was in preschool. I, allegedly, would beg her to wait in the parking lot so she be there on time when I was done. That kind of innocent fear that a mother might not come back is heartbreaking but still resonated heavily with my own life. Tyler in herself was incredibly charming with a soft voice and a slight accent. Her pieces had a melancholy sense to them, even the happy ones.

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Up next was Melissa Green who read from her collection Magpiety. Her poems pulled me in from the get go. They were heavy with imagery, language, and embedded meaning but didn’t feel sluggish. The pacing was impeccable and I never lost interest, which I tend to do when pieces get too wordy. Her piece “Phi” was my favorite poem of the whole night specifically due to the lines, “I wish I’d known about the Golden Mean, / that my over brimming heart was a nautilus, / and not alone, and had poured out love everywhere, / for Fibonacci so long ago had made me his, / and I was part of the world, and known, and loved / to the smallest coral moon on my smallest fingernail”. I connected a lot with this piece also, having recently starting school at Suffolk. This year especially I feel like I’ve had to learn a lot of lessons about self-love. One lesson in particular is about how to be alone but not feel lonely which is easier said than done at times. This piece seems to me to focus deeply on self-acceptance and realizing that just because you don’t have the ideal life does not mean you do not lead an important life. Green’s work was so amazing that I ended up buying a copy of her book once the reading had finished.

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In addition to the wonderful poetry the one thing that struck me was the amount of love in the room that night. There was an outpouring of support for each other that rivals anything I’ve ever seen. It takes a great deal of bravery to publish pieces, specifically poetry, and an even greater deal to read your work aloud to others you know well. It’s easy to talk about literary citizenship, what it means and how to do your share but I without a doubt witnessed literary citizenship in action that night. There was, as I said before, an immense amount of support produced from the crowd and it was powerful to see.

Attending this reading reminded me why I originally fell in love with poetry. It wasn’t because of the authors’ masterful use of language. It was because poems can do in a few short lines what some authors take a whole book to accomplish. Poets grab your attention from the first words and simple lines like “I am always there” can pull you back to stories that took place years in the past. They’re easy to identify with and can quickly put into words feelings you may not have known you were currently feeling. I’m incredibly happy I ended up attending this literary event and I’m definitely looking forward to attend several more!

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Check out Meg Tyler’s collection here!

Check out Melissa Green’s collection here!

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Kayla O’Regan

Suffolk 2019

Mark Harris and Nick Ut: Raw Perspectives

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March 1st. 10 a.m. C.Walsh Theatre, Suffolk University.

Two men, 60+ students, professors. Photographs. Furthermore, memories stored in grainy film, portraits captured in vivid light, full moons casting a shadow on passing airplanes.

Two men, hundreds of pictures, hundreds of thousands of words.

Two men, millions of memories.

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Mark Harris and Nick Ut, both professionally equipped and wonderfully talented photographers, made guest appearances at Suffolk University on Tuesday morning. As an amateur photographer myself, this immediately caught my eye. However, attending this lecture and listening to the stories beyond these photographs set a fire within me… I was touched.

Photography is a world of its own, and is often overlooked. Photography is a culture and an occupation that is beginning to hold less credibility because everyone and their brother has an iPhone. The social media world and the accessibility of the common phone camera creates a falsehood about photography that is, quite honestly, insulting and disappointing. One can capture various foods, various outfits, various moments in time with the click of a button. Yet, I ask you, is the quality the same? Is the work put into it the same as one of Harris or Ut?

My honest answer is absolutely freaking not. It’s easy and enjoyable to take pictures, and some iPhone pictures are beautiful– I will give credit where it is due. It does, however, take a special eye and a certain dedication to capture the moments and photographs that Harris and Ut do. Their photographs are raw, they’re honest, they tell a million stories in one, they are beautiful and disturbing and nightmarish and daydreamy and wonderful but horrible ALL AT ONCE. Their photography matters, it means something to people. They take risks and often prove that those risks were worth taking.

The lecture was for anyone that was remotely interested in photography or either Harris’ or Ut’s work. Harris asked, of the room’s occupancy, how many people were photography majors– and only one or two people raised their hands. The crowd was diverse in majors, interests, and perspectives. Yet we all came together with a common goal: to take a piece of these men’s seemingly never-ending wisdom.

The lecture began with a quick introduction of Mark Harris. Harris mainly shoots in North Korea, a country often burdened with a negative connotation. He shoots daily life in North Korea to show that regardless of its reputation, it also has its beauty and normalcy. Harris has been to eight of the nine provinces in North Korea and has experienced many things the average tourist has not. Harris, a middle aged man dressed in a navy blue scoop-necked sweater with an engaging tone of voice and a pleasant disposition addressed the crowd.

He showed the ins and the outs of tourist attractions and even pictured a photograph of the border of South Korea and North Korea: it was black and white with beautiful contrast in the photo itself; but the true contrast was the back-to-back soldiers from each of the countries. Both looked tense and on-edge. One could literally read their faces just by looking at the picture. He then showed a series of pictures of the border again, but this time from a wider angle. In front of crowds, there was a South Korean soldier, tense and poised to combat at any moment. Next, he showed the bare grounds without any tourists or crowds: the South Korean soldier was gone. The soldier did this strictly for show. In Harris’ powerpoint slide he showed various places and photographs of people that looked like they were consciously enjoying themselves. By this I mean that the people pictured are conscious of the fact that every day, at any moment, something could go wrong. They’re aware of the potential danger around them… Harris described this as “bunker mentality.”

The lesson I learned from Harris’ portion of the lecture was that media is wrong, dramatic, and ridiculous. America paints an awful picture of North Korea and gives them a bad reputation… And although their government is aggressively controlling, to say the least, and although there is conflict among the nation, it is also quite normal. “There are real issues with North Korea just like there are real issues all around the world,” Harris exclaimed, trying to help the audience understand North Korea’s situation. There are families and children and beautiful landscapes and the city of Seoul is amazing. It is a functioning nation and it is not all bad. Anywhere you go in this world truly has its good and bad. Take a look around– we live in a city. There are good people and good objectives, and there are bad people with bad interests. Anywhere you go, you are at risk– but that does not make life worse or give life itself inadequate credibility. It was interesting because Harris took a picture of an Anti-America propaganda postcard and it truly opened my eyes to the prospect that, wow, America isn’t perfect! That sounds silly, but seriously– America is not always 100% right in its actions. People tend to forget about that. Harris’ wonderful pictures capture truth and I admire them deeply.

Many people know of Nick Ut specifically because of his photo “The Napalm Girl” which he captured approximately 43 years ago.

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Ut captured this photo as bombs were going off in Vietnam. This girl was naked, running through the streets, severely burned. The terror in all of these children’s faces says enough; they were terrified, they were in pain, they were innocent and unsure how to cope with the incident that had just occurred. However, the public reacted to this like an electric current and this photo alone helped to jumpstart the end of the Vietnam War. Ut was awarded the Pulitzer prize because of the Napalm Girl photograph’s impact on society.

His portion of the lecture began with a short video showing actual footage of the events leading up to his famous photograph. The audience gaped as the recording camera was running behind the children, running close to them and seeing firsthand the massive burns on their sides. The girl in the photograph’s arm was mangled and the terror in all of their faces was enough to give me chills. The children went up to Nick Ut and his photographer companion screaming. Apparently they were saying “too hot, too hot, I’m going to die.” Nick’s companion poured water into Kim Phuc (the girl pictured)’s mouth and then onto her burns. This soothed her for a certain amount of time. They tried to help as much as they could. I can’t imagine being in this position or place in time… Mere seconds before Kim had run up to Nick Ut, he had snapped the photograph that would change people’s lives. He was simply doing his job and suddenly, with the literal click of a button, created an attachment to a girl and a photograph that no other human would ever have– or understand, for that matter. Ut and Phuc’s relationship has remained throughout the years, especially directly following the photo’s incessant publicity. Kim needed support and the way I interpreted it was that Ut was one of the only people who could understand what she had been through. He  captured what she had been through, and though it was scary and disheartening to look at, it was an honest moment in time that Kim had experienced. It was real.

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Ut’s history as a renowned photographer does not end there– he has been working for the Associated Press (known as AP) for 50+ years. He has worked in Hanoi, Los Angeles, Tokyo. He became famous because of the Napalm Girl, but in the discussion, he showed a 21 minute&50 second video showcasing other work of his. The video went through hundreds of his photographs, some from that awful day captured in Napalm, some from LA, some from random excursions in random places. His work is so incredible. I tried to capture it above, but I was one slide off– however, previous to the slide of the girl tanning in her bikini was another picture of a girl tanning in a bikini– right in the middle of a graveyard. The perspective was amazing because there were dozens of crosses and gravestones around her and there she was, soaking up the sun in her plum-colored bikini looking pleasant as ever. It was slightly disturbing to see and made me respect Ut so much for being able to capture so many feelings in a single photograph.

Something I noticed in Ut’s work is that a lot of it, though Hollywood-y and starstruck in his later years working in LA, is still eerie. I don’t know if I feel this way because my brain had the bombing photos engrained in it, or if they truly were slighty disturbing. There were photographs of stars like Paris Hilton and Michael Jackson and others of whom I do not remember their names. These people looked sad and lost and confused. There was one grainy photograph of a man crying and simultaneously smoking a cigarette, though he was well-dressed and looked very kept up in his wealth. Ut captures such deep and imminent emotion in his photography and I was thoroughly impressed with his ability to capture the deep sadness and irony of Hollywood– money and fame does not always bring happiness. I think that Ut can capture this because of his past experiences with photography and life– he has photographed children that died in their mother’s arms seconds after the photo was taken. He’s witnessed pain and grieved for people he did not know. He empathizes with all and captures raw emotions because he feels them, too, as his photographs are being taken. To be able to feel something so strongly and at the same time capture those emotions in a single photograph is something that I strive to do one day.

Ut ended his presentation with six or seven beautiful photographs of a full moon with airplanes flying overhead. I was wracking my brains, trying to figure out “why” he had put these in at such a specific time, what the significance of the airplanes are, what his intentions were. After reflecting for a long time, I believe that he implemented those photographs as a way of closing up his slideshow with hope and grace: full moons are in cycles. The moon waxes, it wanes, its phases change and yet it’s always there. The full moon is at its brightest and most evident, yet when it’s a sliver of a crescent moon it is still present. Memories captured in Ut’s photographs are forever present– the photograph of Kim Phuc will be a memory in everyone’s lives forever. The moments captured in Ut’s photos are memories that are permanent.

People change and times change and life keeps going, life keeps waxing and waning and sometimes we’re at our brightest and other times we feel as if we’re barely a sliver. Photographers like Mark Harris and Nick Ut prove to us, and remind us, that memories matter. That moments in time should be captured, that we are all in existence for something. The world of photography needs to be maintained; rising photographers need to implement emotion into their work, they need to take risks and follow in Harris and Ut’s footsteps.

I hope to make a difference one day in my own creative pathway, much like the differences that these two men with hundreds of pictures, thousands of words,and millions of memories.

IMG_9042Meagan Dreher

Thankful

I had never been to a Literary Event before, so I really didn’t know what to expect. Actually, to be completely honest, I didn’t even know that was a term–or even worse–that the events were so frequent and popular before this semester.   (For my Creativity & Innovation class focusing on Literary Citizenship, one of our assignments was to choose and attend a Literary Event).

I started to look through the then-upcoming events on campus, at a variety of bookstores, and at the Boston Public Library.  I was simply scrolling through hoping that something would catch my eye.

I have always been a fan of little and local bookstores–I find them super extraordinary and unique and get a little bit of relaxation just walking around in silence, admiring the work so many people have put into the millions of works of literature, and digging through little trinkets that you can only find at little hole-in-the-wall places (which is always my fav part, but certainly not my wallet’s).  Therefore, I was specifically looking through events at Brookline Booksmith and Paper Cuts Bookstore in Jamaica Plain.

One of the events at Brookline Booksmith was a featuring of Mona Awad reading from and discussing her new book, “13 Ways of Looking at A Fat Girl”, which seemed like something I could be interested in.  Therefore, I planned on attending this event on Tuesday March 1, 2016 and purchasing the book to read beforehand, which didn’t happen until 5 days ago, since the book just recently came out on February 23.  There was something about the way the book initially felt in my hands before I even opened the cover that told me I was going to enjoy it.

I got on the T, the Green Line, C Train to be specific, and headed for Coolidge Corner with my book in hand and mind ready to be refreshed.  I had never been on the C Line, and therefore had never been to Harvard Square before, never been to a literary event, and never met an author, but I was definitely ready to explore!

Right across the street from my stop was Brookline Booksmith, and right next to the bookstore was a Starbucks–yes!  I stopped in Starbucks, grabbed a hot-chocolate, my go-to to relax and enjoy time by myself, and headed in ready to have a night to myself.  I instantly felt like I walked into a magical world of my own–mostly because of the christmas lights strung along the ceiling, such a cute idea.

In a little corner of the basement, about 10 of us gathered around a small podium to hear Mona Awad discuss one of my new favorite books.  I’m the type of person who enjoys easy-read, light-hearted, realistic-fiction novels about little love stories and real-life happenings, therefore this book was perfect for me.

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Her novel consists of 13 stories, all focusing on certain aspects of life that may be difficult for a “fat girl”.  The book is told over about 30 years, and each story, although sequential in manner, describes a different struggle with relationships, self-esteem, society, etc. that women, (and men) in society may face with their weight. It is such a great novel captivating the emotions of many of us in today’s society, with a very humorous and light tone.  One of my favorite themes throughout the book is that she doesn’t ever specify the weight of the “fat girl”, she leaves it to the reader to decide, and I think that’s really important.  Because of this, the reader, no matter their size, can personally relate to each story, and there are no judgments made about what “fat” consists of.  The book is so great, I don’t want to ruin it for you, so I will stop here!

For me, part of reading more and more is to find the perfect book for the genre you like, but Mona Awad hit the nail right on the head.  I might need to pick a new genre, because I finally found the perfect book for what I love to read, all because of a completely random choice for a class assignment!

Awad is beautiful, let me just begin with that. Along with her skill, her voice in her novel and her ideas, she is absolutely stunning and admirable. She has many published writings, and has a masters degree in English Literature that she received while studying in Scotland.

She began by reading a chapter of the book, one specifically about an oversized girl trying on a tight-fitting dress in a fitting room, and the judgements made by the store clerk.

She then opened a discussion and left the floor open to any questions we may have had. Most of the questions hovered over the topic of inspiration. Awad described how her inspiration was her own internal struggles with the image of herself, and along with that, those among the female’s in her family.  She wrote this book over a course of 6 years to relate to others who have struggled with this obstacle and to essentially get some answers as to why so many are concerned and unhappy with how they look.

One of the things I found most inspiring within her answers was when she said, “The stories weren’t working for me until I became emotionally invested”, meaning that when she put heart and experience into the stories, they became relatable, easier to write, and real, and that’s when the books started coming together.  This is a piece of advice I will carry with me throughout all of my writing from now on.

An author deserves the same credibility for talent as a musician, or an actor for example, but meeting a celebrity almost always seems like so much more of a big deal.  While listening to Mona Awad read tonight, I decided that meeting an author is just as special–to me at least.  Music artists are always given thanks for altering lives and creating relaxation outlets with their music, but I think author’s do the same.

Just like (almost) every other college freshman in the world, this has been a very stressful few semesters for a number of reasons.  Being able to put my infinite amount of thoughts aside for a few hours each day and read Awad’s book made me feel so relaxed (for at least a little while). Not only did she write such a magnificent book, but she was able to give me a new technique to relax within my incredibly hectic schedule that sometimes seems like a never-ending black hole.

Before I left the store, I of course had to wander around, silently relaying positive affirmations to myself with the voice inside my head like I always do, reading titles of colorful books that popped out to my eye on various shelves, fiddling with almost every trinket within the store, and this time, looking for a book that I could use to escape reality for a few hours again.

I left the store with a new book (and more specifically, a new outlet to relax), a warm heart, a cleared mind (which doesn’t happen very often) and a new hobby.  I’m so thankful for my professor who required this amazing experience, and for Mona Awad for opening my heart and re-sparking my interest in reading and I’m so excited to return!!

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Brookline Booksmith not only features an overwhelming assortment of books, but it also carries jewelry, note cards, accessories, household trinkets, and much more.  If you have a chance, please check it out! **279 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

By Mia Mancini