At 5 p.m. on April 24, students gathered in clusters around the tables in upper Montgomery Hall lobby, eating pizza, drinking soda and chatting. At the front of the room stood a podium and a projector screen, where students would soon present the prose, poetry and art that is compiled in the Spring 2019 edition of AVATAR, St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s (SMCM) literary magazine.
The event started out with some light-hearted banter between Club President Kimberly Boenig (‘19) and Club Adviser Jerry Gabriel, admonishing him for speaking out of turn. Boenig then went on to give her thanks and acknowledgements for those who participated in the making of AVATAR, submitters and executives alike. “I also want to thank Oreos,” Boenig added, citing them as the unofficial club mascot. She then introduced the three new executive board members who will be heading the club next year: Alyssa Hawkins (‘21), Danielle Harris-Burnett (‘21) and Vera Armstead (‘20).
As there were some technical difficulties with getting the slideshow to function, Boenig warmed up the crowd of about 30 students with some stand up comedy, tellings jokes about the meat of a walnut and a magical French dog to lukewarm response. “My jokes are as funny as a tank with a kickstand or a submarine with sliding glass doors,” Boenig admitted with all the eloquence of a great writer. With that, the reading began.
Boenig first introduced the cover of the magazine, a photo of a yellow flower taken by Lindsey Wooleyhand (‘19) titled “Island Jam.” While minding readers to take heed of the content warning key that designates which pieces involve sensitive subjects like mental health or sexual assault, Boenig then read the list of works from the table of contents, inviting the authors in attendance to come read or talk about their pieces before the audience.
What followed was a mix of poetry, prose, and art that showcased the very best of SMCM students. The pieces ranged from deeply moving to delightfully lighthearted, and covered a wide variety of topics ranging from Ruby Turner’s poem about police brutality that left the room breathless to Andrew Sonnenburg’s (‘22) hilariously relatable piece about always buying too much at Target. The magazine held beautifully unique free verse from poets like Liz Spencer (‘19) and James Pollard (‘19) as well as impressive rhyme scheme from Ifeanyi Ndolo (‘21). Poetry did not completely steal the show, however, with amazing prose from Marie Keller (‘19) and Danielle Harris-Burnett. In addition, there was spectacular photography from Ziling Guo (‘20) and gorgeous art from other students.The reading closed with a heart-wrenching, tear-inducing “Eulogy for a Cat” by Boenig herself for her cat, Princess Tigerlily, who passed in 2018. The eulogy left the audience with a note of bittersweetness, reminding us all to spend time with our loved ones while we can.
Overall, the reading was a fantastic demonstration of the art and writing talent that exists at SMCM. For those interested in participating in AVATAR, either as a submitter or a member of the executive or review board, keep an eye out for more information on InsideSMCM, and consider a donation to help keep the college’s remarkable literary magazine around for years to come.