Writer’s night a success

About 40 white plastic seats were set up in the lobby of the Visual Arts Center lobby in preparation for the NVU Poetry/Fiction Reading on the night of April 29. All of them were filled with students, family and other members of the Johnson community. About fifteen others stood around the room as nine writers performed their creative works. The audience’s attention was held captive as they listened to poems, story excerpts and a creative essay.

The night was hosted by Fallon Repeta, an NVU-Johnson student and creative writing major as part of an assignment to develop a project that engages the literary community of Johnson.

“I wanted it to be a good set of student-aged writers who were invested in what they were doing and put blood, sweat and tears into their work,” said Repeta. “I wanted to pick out writers from the community who did that. That was why it was formatted as a reading instead of an open-mic, and I think formatting it like that is what made it a success. Everybody cared about it as much as I cared about it.”

The night kicked off at 7 p.m., beginning with a series of poems by Emerson Hayes.

“This was the first time that I’ve ever done a reading,” said Hayes. “It’s cool that I get to do it at a place that I feel really comfortable at. The VAC is like a home to me. It was cathartic to get all of that out. It’s stuff that I’ve been working on for months as I’ve been going through a lot of garbage. It was good to have this kind of thing and to hear what other people have to say. For people that I know, it’s like seeing a different side of them because you don’t really go up to your friend and you’re like ‘Hey! Read me your really angsty poetry!”

By far the most common emotion of the night as the event was starting to get under way was anxiety, either because they were worried about stumbling over their words or their six-inch heels.

“[Reading] means a lot of stress and anxiety,” said Isaiah Perry. “I spend a lot of my time writing and not a lot of time reading aloud so I’m not very good at it. But I think one goes hand in hand with the other. If I’m going to write, I’m going to also have to read.”

The worries of the performers were echoed and amplified by Repeta, who also performed after a small break that allowed the audience to explore the newly opened gallery exhibit just down the hall.

“I ran it on my own trying to find a venue, inviting the different writers, trying to pick out a room in the venue, how do I get chairs, advertising, all of those things were running through my head at the same time as I was preparing for it,” said Repeta. “Once I was doing it and I was emceeing and presenting people, it was like all that crazy noise had turned into white noise. It was like, okay, I got this. It was stressful but also so much fun, so exciting and really rewarding to see people be able to express themselves and show the hard work that they put in.”

Despite the widely-felt anxiety about putting on the event and reading personal topics on stage in front of a crowd, there was a relief found in the readings too.

“I lost a family friend over December break and started thinking a lot about mortality and about my own parent’s mortality and how terrified I was of it,” said Rebecca Flieder, a sophomore. “It meant a lot that I got to share that existential dread with everybody else. I think some of them understand, even if they don’t feel it themselves. It was a healing moment for me. I was like, alright, this is out of me. Somebody else gets to deal with my emotions now.”

There was a wide variation of topics that were read. Some pulled inspiration from mythology, like Kelsey LaCasse’s poems based off of Icarus and Medusa. Some were introduced as “yelling about politics.” Others were inspired directly from their life, whether as a way to express thoughts about past events or as a way of transforming dark moments into something wonderful.

“Of the poems that I read tonight, one of them is more about growth,” said Hayes. “The other three that I wrote were about this shitty relationship that I was in. It caused me a lot of pain and I was sick thinking about it all the time, so I put everything that I was feeling into what I was writing. So it is a lot of pain and heartbreak and stuff that revolves around that.”

“Poetry for me is like writing a diary,” said LaCasse. “But in a way that is more constructive than just venting because it creates something beautiful out of a bad experience I’ve had or a passion I feel. It’s therapeutic.”

It was an evening full of support, laughter, empowerment and baring one’s soul to the world. At the end of the night, there was relief at an event well-run and a wide wish for more readings and opportunities to share and listen to the young writers on campus and the works they toil over.