On Thursday, January 30th, the St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) community welcomed back SMCM alumnus Joe Hall in an event held in Daugherty-Palmer Commons. Hall is a writer, researcher, and teacher who has published three collections of poetry, entitled “Someone’s Utopia,” “The Devotional Poems,” and “Pigafetta Is My Wife.” SMCM is most proud of his activism and generous teaching. Professor Karen Leona Anderson extended her gratitude towards Hall for coming back to SMCM and sharing his talent with students. “Someone’s Utopia,” Hall’s most recent book, published in 2018, focuses on labor and the eye-opening experience of being in the labor force.
Hall was a student of Professor Jeff Coleman, who introduced the talented SMCM alum with respect. Hall was a student at SMCM in the 2000s. His poems had a devotion, or theme, of beauty, damage and hope. Coleman explained that as a student, Hall’s poetry was filled with pain and damage. But in the end, this pain and damage were dealt with by overcoming these challenges. Coleman spoke of Hall’s dedication to his poetry and his education. In 2004, Hall graduated from St. Mary’s with a perfect 4.0 GPA and was the valedictorian for his graduating year.
Hall mentioned he was very grateful to Coleman and grateful to come back to St. Mary’s. When he was a student at St. Mary’s, Coleman guided him in his poetry. He asked Coleman to review his poems every week. Hall shared that he had an opportunity to work with Lucille Clifton, one of the college’s most revered writers and professors.
In Hall’s reading, he spoke of the very real problems society holds and the emotions generated as a result. Hall’s poetry is filled with emotion. His use of sound through rhyme produced a sense of despair and frustration. In a series of poems entitled, “Fuge Zone,” Hall repeated the word “fireball” over and over again. With repetitive use of fireball, the strength in Hall’s voice channeled many emotions—anger, sadness, despair: it was all there.
As Hall read more and more of these poems, it became apparent that his poetry spoke beyond the words on the paper and encapsulated the emotions of the students. As Hall finished reading each poem, the lingering silence showed how the power of Hall’s poetry and the images he created left listeners in deep thought.
As a student asked the figurative meaning or metaphor of these “fireballs,” Hall explained that they were fireballs, just fireballs, but that they showed this sense of being stuck, and trying to make sense of everything.
Another student asked, “What do you miss most about St. Mary’s?” Hall responded with gratitude that he was grateful for the sense of freedom and possibility that the campus gave to students. Bola Fadojutimi, commented, “Always great to see an alum, who has been in the same shoes as you are, and see them be so successful.” Another student, Lydia Haron, a junior, explained, “He’s very down to earth. I really appreciate how he combines his activism with his poetry.”
The emotion and passion Hall shared with students was truly inspiring. Hall’s activism truly shares its depth with both its readers and listeners. Throughout the reading, Hall powerfully held the attention of every listener, making the passion in his voice further drive his activism.