You tear off the parts of envelopes. Her tongue touches and saves them for later, to keep her close, you have pockets full of her scraps.
Clayton Krollman read lines such as these from his poem Nonskylessness, during Thursday’s Litfest. Members of the Writers’ House drew goosebumps from an eager crowd of about 50, which had gathered for the annual Litfest, hosted by the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House.
The event featured Jiménez-Porter literary prize readings, Writers’ House commencement and an unveiling of the 2015 issues of Stylus.
Krollman explained the bitter infatuation that inspired this poem, which won first place for the Jiménez-Porter literary prize. “I had a major crush on this girl. And the birds were … you know the birds that happen?” He motioned with his hands above his head.
He said his poem is in the form of a ghazal, a Persian form of poetry that relies on a “red string” that goes through a series of couplets, Krollman said. There is no narrative that follows the ghazal.
You have individual couplets that are attached to each other through a refrain and as you follow the poem, there will be a “repetitive difference,” so this refrain will change meaning as it is read, Krollman said.
“There is this sort of nebulous emotion you get when you have this big crush on some girl, or boy, or whoever, any non-binary member of the gender spectrum, but anyways with the guzzle you trace your emotions in a nonlinear way, which was more interesting to me than just I really like this girl and … birds” he said.
The gunsmoke leaks out of her just to kaleidoscope light onto the walls, to bruise them bright as polished bone.
Litfest was an eclectic mix of lovers of words, and as Krollman was reading this line, I could not help but highlight the word “kaleidoscope” to capture the essence of the event. The fact that the readers had last names such Vance and Lawless, only proliferated the atmosphere created when a group of eclectic writers are brought together in a room.
It was a kaleidoscope of prose and poetry from individuals of all different backgrounds. One prose by Lyla Lawless brought hope to cancer in a piece called Remission, inspired by her uncle and cousin – both cancer survivors.
Reis Vance, a prose writer, was introduced as having a fondness for cardigans. He did not wear one, but he read the end of his long prose piece for the audience with style. His piece created upon a collage of events that seemed to illustrate the main character’s inability to handle the emotions of others. This sequence of memories began with the main character attending his girlfriend’s performance of Glass Menagerie, and not liking it very much.
“Communication is a spectator sport,” he said.
While reflecting upon this event, the words of the other presenters, such as spoken word poet Kosi Dunn, run through my mind.
He finds his feet stumbling around an apartment he doesn’t own for bananas, and something loud to drown out the funeral gurge his bones will rattle to all day.
Dunn towered behind the lectern.
Emily Tuttle read her poem about Virginia Woolf’s suicide. She talked about Woolf as if she knew her personally, bringing a strange personal aspect to her suicide.
I wonder if Virginia meant to become so heavy she could drown. Or perhaps all the voices became so smooth and lovely they started to sit in her hands like tiny fingers, settle along the cracks in her side, and nestle in her flesh.
Tuttle describes her writing process as “a little bit hectic.” She said that one of her poetry professors freshman year had described Woolf’s as “poetic” while they were reading Mrs. Dalloway.
She was horrified by this, until her professor explained to her that other writers had shot themselves or drank themselves to death, while Woolf put rocks into her trenchcoat pockets and walked slowly into the River Ouse. “That image just stuck in my head for years until I finally sat down … this is such a powerful idea.” Her favorite poets include Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and Sylvia Plath.
The event culminated with Johnna Schmidt, director of the Writers’ House, reading a mix of the graduating writers’ purpose statements from their applications two years prior.
The first story you ever wrote was about a young alien boy forced to get on a magical train by a cranky old wizard. Looking back it was a … Harry Potter ripoff.
The girl who had written this hid her face in her red scarf, her friends around her laughed and hugged her.
Your characters slayed dragons of their own kind, self-doubt, conceit, societal constructs, and roles and flawed or perverted perception of self. Without a doubt your audience, teenage girls, knew that those dragons existed and experienced them regularly.
Schmidt said each year the atmosphere of the event is different.
“One year we had like every single piece that was read at Litfest had something to do with sex,” Schmidt said. “It was almost … embarrassing to sit there and think about the parents being there listening to this. Then there was another year where almost every single piece was sort of written from a child’s point of view, and this year I felt like there was just such a diversity of pieces. I’m very proud.”
Raye Weigel is a freshman English and community health double major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.