The Kelly Writer’s House at Penn is a quiet place, but as each of the nine Penn poets reads, his/her friends go wild. The leader of the event is overjoyed, because readings are rarely this packed and popular. “Let’s get loud for poetry!” she exclaims.
Tonight is called We All Feel Like It, a part of the Whenever We Feel Like It series. Each poet masterfully performs their words for the audience, and as the night goes on it becomes clear that their poetry does not simply stand alone. Instead, the poems seem to be pieces of intricate conversations already in progress.
Take Leo Amino, who shares poems that come from an email chain of poetic expression. He has a woman from the chain join him at the front of the room, demonstrating how her words led to his.
Then there is Trisha Low. Trisha reads letters she wrote to other poets, like Louis Zukofsky and Charles Olsen, to whom she begins “Hi Charlie.” Trisha’s effervescence makes her voice dance along the edges of her words. Her language is a beautiful blend of colloquial speech and poetic rhythm.
Not everyone’s conversations are as direct. Henry Steinberg expresses the complications of his relationship with his brother: “I mean, I’m not, we’re still…” The poem is a cacophony of stuttery, unfinished sentences. Through the uneven breaks Henry expresses his and his brother’s inability to converse on the same level.
Some of the poets tell explicit stories while others keep the audience in the abstract. But everyone brings the meaning of their poems into a context that the audience will understand. Through the unique introductions—what they call their biographies—we learn how the poets want to be seen. The bio of Florentina Dragulescu, who writes on sexuality and on how boys see girls if they say “no”, says that “if you look very closely at these lives you may see your own bad behavior.” John Bang claims he is a “library of every feeling you cannot purchase,” warning us never to call him a bookstore. Amaris Cuchanski is “a word in French that doesn’t exist.”
This event was the perfect way to get more people to “get loud for poetry.” The reading was at Penn, and the readers were from Penn. So, the student audience already had a connection without even knowing the poets personally. And poetry is, after all, a form of connecting, of conversing. In one of her poems, Amaris says, “we make closeness out of fabricated fiction.” In the Writer’s House tonight, nothing feels fabricated or fiction at all.