Forget the Barker Center. Literature has never been so alive in the C'est Bon atrium as it was on March 2, when "Live Anthology" took over the Adams House lower common room. Filled with over seventy students from Boston University, Northeastern, Brandeis, Tufts, M.I.T., and Harvard, the common room was converted into a coffee house of sorts, sans coffee but replete with soft drinks, chips, and poetry.
The evening began with six readings, featuring one student from each school. After about a half an hour, the event metamorphosed into an open mic forum, at which point the line between audience and reader became comfortably blurred and remained that way for two additional hours of poetic revelry.
This revelry was the result of an atmosphere that successfully transcended college boundaries, everyday modesty, and good old-fashioned stage fright. The coffee house analogy didn't hold throughout the evening, as the reading was more about a shared intimacy of personal expression than the pretense so often associated with tall mochaccinos. Here were dozens of people listening intently on couches, on the floor, knitting, doodling, eyeing the crowd and copies of _The Harvard Advocate_. Inspired by the readers and listeners who had trekked multiple T stops and squished themselves together in a mid-sized common room, "Live Anthology" evoked a unique sense of poetic community.
The reading was the first production of its kind, organized by the newly formed Intercollegiate Literary Society. The group was conceived by Jamie Crawford, a sophomore at Tufts University and president of the Tufts Poets Society. Crawford was bothered by the disjointed nature of the college literary scene. "I felt the need to get off campus," she explained, her face glowing after the success of the evening. Crawford called professors, college literary publications, and consulted the advice of Louisa Solano, owner of the Grolier Poetry Bookshop. Her efforts came to fruition in November, when the Literary Society first met and began planning "Live Anthology." Crawford hopes to extend their activities nationwide, including more intercollegiate readings, a student-written anthology and a web site for easily accessible poetic exchange.
Setting virtual poetry aside, the real merit of last Thursday's event was that, as promised, the poetry was live. With Crawford and The Harvard Advocate's Caroline Whitbeck '01 as tag-team emcees, "Live Anthology" had a cooperative and spontaneous feel to it from the beginning. On the whole, the first six poets, representing each of the schools, read with confidence that paved the way for the open mic-ers who would follow them. Sara Medinger, a Boston University student, captivated the audience with the hyper-realism of her prose about the "intimate dance of hands" between a couple on their first movie date, unsure about armrest positioning. Using micro-details of space and time and addressing her audience in the second person, the Medinger created palpable sexual tension among audience members, released only somewhat by laughter at strategic intervals. The mood changed considerably when another reader from M.I.T. softly read a "work in progress" poem about a stern father who kills himself, teaching his obedient daughter to "fight back when somebody hits you." Although she read with less force and theatricality than some of the other poets, this eerily autobiographical poem stood on its own. Her small voice and the small room enhanced the intimacy of the poem, drawing in the audience.
The open mic session was pleasurably inconsistent, in quality and content. It didn't matter that some of the poems were less than stellar; the audience was ready to enjoy the collective effort at earnest communication-something you don't necessarily find everyday. It was interesting to note the lack of a clear-cut poetic hierarchy between the schools (sorry, Harvard). Nonetheless, Alexander Forrester '01 did make an impression with his poem, "Forty-Two," a six-part "answer to the question of the meaning of life" that weaved together allusions to the _Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy_ with Greek mythology and Shakespeare. A Tufts student almost rapped his way through a stream of poetic apostrophes to death, pleading, "...take me like a princess bride...but I'm not ready for you yet...."
Not every reading took on such hefty subject matter, as Tuft's Jacquelyn Benson lightened things up with a dramatic reading of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time." Josette Akresh of Boston University staked her claim for the poetic medium with comedic bluntness, "If you don't appreciate poetry you're an ignorant fool...You need a taste of Socrates and a good hard punch in the kisser." Some of the more memorable idiomatic expressions of the night included the fascinating simile, "waves like asses rise and fall," as well as another student's symbolic appropriation of Richard Dean Anderson, as seen through the eyes of his mother.
The evening closed with Joseph Turian's '01 heartfelt reading of the credit card receipt used for evening's snacks. This levity is emblematic of what "Live Anthology" brought-and hopefully will continue to bring-to the college literary scene: an intimate community of serious poets who aren't too pretentious to laugh at themselves.
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