Imagine a utopian, alien planet where there is no crime or prejudice, no stress or illness. The planet’s inhabitants are deeply cultured and have an intense appreciation for the arts. Their race is far superior to humanity in every possible way.

Now imagine these aliens come to take over earth because they need a new planet to call home. They need to destroy the human race to preserve their own (which is, again, far superior to ours). The only way humans might be spared from this fate is if you prove to the alien race that humanity has value to offer. What do you show them that would stop them from destroying the human race?

That was the premise of assistant professor Emily Mitchell’s short story she read at Writers Here and Now March 9. 

Mitchell only read the first part of her story. She stopped just as an alien agrees to walk around with the narrator, a music theory teacher who now has the responsibility of saving the human race on her shoulders, to see if she can show the alien that humanity has value.

The event showcased faculty members’ works. Mitchell was joined by professor Stanley Plumly and guest lecturers Tania James and Will Schutt.

Ariel Jicha, a first year graduate student studying poetry and a former student of Plumly, said that she enjoyed hearing him talk about his own work instead of his students.

Jicha also said Mitchell’s reading was her favorite.

“Her accent really contributed to that,” Jicha said, referring to Mitchell’s English accent. “She has a really nice reading voice, but it was also a really great story.”

The readers presented diverse works, ranging from comedic fiction, striking poetry, and powerful non fiction.

“I liked the variety. I think it’s cool to be able to hear different genres at once. I haven’t been to a reading like that here before. Usually it’s just poetry and fiction,” Jicha said.

James read an excerpt from her story called “Sisters.” She said that the story was the first thing she had written in a while after she became a mother. The story offered a comical yet truthful perspective on motherhood.

In a voice ripe with emotion, Schutt, an award-winning poet, read three of his own poems as well as his translations of three Italian poems.

He described his poem “The Rough, the Smooth, the Bright, the Drear” as a “dramatic monologue” of a woman riding in a car with her husband. As she’s in the car, she ponders meaning behind her marriage, or if it has any real meaning at all.

Ruth Morris, a third year MFA student, said listening to poetry can create a deeper understanding and connection to the poem.

“Poetry was originally an oral tradition, so to be able to come to a reading and hear it adds another dimension that students can forget when they’re assigned readings as homework,” said Morris.

“Even in prose, I think it’s nice to hear the work read in the voice of the person who wrote it because it’s often different than the way you imagine it when you’re reading it silently to yourself,” third year MFA student Anne Price added.

Plumly read an excerpt from the end of his book “The Immortal Evening: A Legendary Dinner With Keats, Wordsworth, and Lamb,” a biographical work about artist Benjamin Robert Haydon and several writers.

Haydon hosted a dinner party with John Keats, William Wordsworth, and Charles Lamb. It was an iconic meeting in literary history, Plumly explained. These three writers were models for Haydon’s painting “Christ’s Entry Into Jerusalem.”

Haydon was in constant debt and had difficulties being an artist, Plumly said.

In his excerpt, Plumly described the Haydon’s suicide. He first shot himself in the head, but that did not kill him, so he had to slit his throat several times before he actually died.

Though Plumly read prose at the event, his words carried a poetic quality in their richness and sentiment.

“Giving readings is hard work emotionally,” said Plumly. “You really get into it and it takes a lot of you.”

Price and Morris commented on the common themes of mortality in both Mitchell’s and Plumly’s readings.

“I mean, at the end of the day, as writers, I think we’re all fascinated by our own mortality,” said Morris with a laugh. “It’s all we ever want to talk about.”
The next Writers Here and Now will be on April 6 and will feature poet Vievee Francis and author Jim Shepard.

Featured Photo Credit: Visiting professor, Tania James reading from a new piece at Writers Here and Now in Tawes. (Cassie Osvatics/Bloc Reporter)

Rosie Kean is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at vrosekean@gmail.com

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