Poetry and Fiction Reading: powerful storytelling


Max Bickley – General Assignment Reporter

It’s an inspiring moment to witness not only Southern’s very own faculty, but also former graduates and current students present their work. On April 15, Southern’s English department hosted the last of its visiting writers series with MFA graduate Lori DeSanti, SCSU graduate Rayon Lennon, and Communications Professor Frank Tavares. The night opened up with Professor Tim Parish introducing the former editor of the NOCTUA graduate literary magazine, Lori DeSanti.

DeSanti, a former SCSU student who has currently published a chapbook of poetry, and two releasing in the summer, began by reading from her chapbook “Saltwater Under Brittle Sky” and talked about one of her themes of writing: water.

“I write a lot of poems about or dealing with water,” DeSanti said, “I find that it is a very meditative subject, and I find that my writing also becomes very meditative.”

Out of the poems read by DeSanti, two stuck out in particular. The first, one entitled “Artist” was about the South Shore of Bermuda which was wracked by hurricane Gonzalo in 2014. The poem talked about both the tragedy and beauty of the scene. One line which described the feeling of the poem, talked about the hurricane “wielding the wind like a chisel” that carved the shoreline.

Following the poetry reading by DeSanti was the poetry of Rayon Lennon, an SCSU graduate in English creative writing and is now pursuing a master’s degree in social work. Upon coming up to the podium to speak, Lennon said there were a couple of things to know about both him and his work.

“I am Jamaican. I was born in Jamaica and moved to the United States when I was thirteen,” said Lennon, “And the poems I will be reading come from my book ‘Barrel Children.’ Barrel children are children whose parents leave them behind in Jamaica to find economic opportunities in other countries. I am one myself.”  

The poems read by Lennon were not only humorous, but also often striking and deeply emotional. One of Lennon’s poems entitled “Four Hundred Years Later” detailed the experiences and life in New Haven as an African-American. Ranging in topics from a distrust and pressure from police to having enjoyable time in life, the poem was written with emotion and a level of aching truth to it. One line from the poem which sticks out is: “Sometimes I overdose on hope, dreaming of a planet called equality.”

Following the last poem by Lennon, now-retiring communications Professor Frank Tavares took to the podium. Having spent 27 years at Southern, being one of the founder of “The Journal of Radio and Media,” as well as being known as “The Voice of NPR,” Tavares decided to read a work of his short fiction. The piece, entitled “Why Jimmy Mendoza hated the late Tamale Jones,” told the story of two friends reminiscing about old times, but one of them was in a casket and three-days dead.

The story, as funny as some may find the title, was even funnier than could be pictured. The humor mixed with seriousness of the story led to an experience in listening, and often had the whole audience laughing. At its heart though, the story was one about closure and loss of friendship, but the memories left behind by those we love, even if we say we hated them.

The best way to sum up the night, and the series as presented by Professor Parish and the English department, was actually said by Tavares in his opening to his work.

“Words have power,” said Tavares, “They have the power to enlighten, teach and entertain us. And for that reason we should cherish them.”

Photo Credit: Max Bickley – General Assignment Reporter

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