UMD MFA professor shares poems at TerPoets

Brendan Kennedy, the host for TerPoets on March 6, read a poem about his girlfriend's diet and his sister. Photo by Shannon Mooney for The Writers' Bloc.

By Shannon Mooney

Staff Writer

“I love the informality of this,” said poet Elizabeth Arnold at Tuesday’s TerPoets open mic event. “The last time I read was in L.A., in front of strangers.”

Arnold, the featured poet at this week’s TerPoets, has published three books of poems and is on the MFA faculty at the University of Maryland.

The event was hosted by senior Brendan Kennedy, whose light and exciting tone was engaging for the intimate audience of about 20 people.

“We have plenty of time for the sound of your hands slapping together,” he said, encouraging applause.

In total, 13 students performed. Many of the poems were emotional, such as Allison Hartley’s “Family Secrets,” while others evoked laughter from the audience.

Senior Dylan Bargteil performed the only musical act of the night. He played guitar and sang an energetic punk rock cover of “Bad Bad Things” by Andrew Jackson Jihad.

Bargteil is experienced in reading poetry and performing songs at TerPoets.

“I used to prefer playing music,” he said. “Then I kind of reconceived how I perform poetry.”

After about an hour of student performances, Arnold took the stage. Her soft-spoken voice was captivating and drew the audience in.

Many of her poems were about personal experiences, including one called “Trees,” which was inspired by the several blizzards last year in the area that left her backyard in Hyattsville, Md. destroyed.

Her lengthy poem called “Egypt,” which sparked the most interest from the audience, discussed the country by describing the writer’s surroundings and revealed a very emotional experience about a personal relationship. While describing the country’s landscape, she also discussed a relationship she had and created an emotional connection between the person and the scenery.

The evening concluded with a friendly and stimulating conversation between Arnold and the audience.

She explained her process of writing “Egypt” and a discussion formed about the difference between describing people and places in poetry. Arnold said inspiration can come from looking out the window.

For Arnold, morning is the best time of the day for writing. She said she finds something magical about “being in a weird, half awake state of mind.”

Watch videos from the March 6 TerPoets on The Writers’ Bloc YouTube channel.

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