Written By: Clare Kelly
On Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, the Voices Reading Series welcomed back recent St. Mary’s College of Maryland alumni to share their poetry and writing. These accomplished St. Mary’s graduates shared pieces of their writing and tips for writing.
In her introduction, Professor Karen Leona Anderson welcomed the alumni with “great and deep pleasure…for they are our own.” She expressed her enthusiasm for the reading and cited the importance of this reading because “many of the student writers have worried about what comes after this.” Anderson speaks of how these students are doing this tricky part of taking this “brave step” and are “moving day to day.” She tells of how this takes bravery and how they use their “own stubborn hope” to persevere as artists in this society to keep both their bravery and hope alive.
The reading began with Cameron Kelley, a fiction author and poet, who is currently employed by Pearson Education. She has been published in Strange Horizons, the National Collegiate Honors Council and the Sprout Club Journal. In Anderson’s introduction of Kelley, she spoke of how her “energy and intelligence” shows through her poetry. Kelley read a poem entitled “November 3rd” that focuses on the recent weeks and a poetic sequence, entitled “Anatomy of the end,” that helped her develop as a poet.
Omobolawa (Bola) Fadojutimi, a 2020 graduate who majored in English and minored in dance and education, holds aspirations of becoming an educator. As a writer of poetry, she explores and remains curious about how the past impacts the present. Anderson spoke of Fadojutimi’s insightful poetic narrative sequence on her family in Nigeria that Fadojutimi wrote in Anderson’s 495 Poetic Sequence class. Fadojutimi read a poem entitled, “to move,” which she wrote in Anderson’s class, that grapples with denoting the body beyond its basic functions. She also read a poem, “Metaphorical wings,” which she wrote during the March 2020 quarantine that helped her grapple with her thoughts and understand the “funk” her mind remained in during the quarantine.
Joseph Johnson, a 2019 graduate with degrees in English and Spanish who is actively pursuing his Master of Arts at Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English, presented next. Johnson completed a St. Mary’s Project while at SMCM, where he used his craft of writing to complete a short story collection focusing on cultural awareness. Johnson chose to share in the trend of the SMCM alumni by reading a piece of “writing [that] had its birthplace at St. Mary’s.” He read a short story that recently underwent new revisions, but the original came from the second creative writing class he completed at SMCM.
Samantha Liming, who’s actively pursuing her Masters in Fine Arts at the University of South Carolina, has collaborated with the Chesapeake Writers’ Conference, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Origins Journal. Liming received the Gail West Parmentier Arts Alliance Award for Creative Writing. In her introduction of Liming, Anderson mentioned Liming’s ekphrastic St. Mary’s Project that stood out. As Liming shared her poetry with the audience, she mentioned that her poems reflect on her family. She read two poems, named “20 months behind” and “messes.” She also read a poem entitled, “Salt,” which focused on the rising sea level on the Eastern Shore.
Closing the night of talent, Alex Weber, currently attending University of Southern California’s School of Screenwriting, shared his writing. In her introduction of Weber, Anderson mentioned how Weber’s “cleverness and tenderness was always striking.” Weber read a portion from his completed St. Mary’s Project novella. Weber decided to pursue screenwriting through reading screenwriting. His favorite part about writing is the dialogue and discourse that occurs between the character. He also enjoyed the collaborative effort of screenwriting, and he is currently writing a screenplay with Jack Darrell, another SMCM alumnus.
As students asked questions regarding the writing process, one question poised includes the opinion of these authors and poets on the best time to write. Kelley mentioned how she prefers to write late into the night before she falls asleep, and Fadojutimi concurs with Kelley, saying she enjoys writing at about 2 a.m. She finds comfort in writing when everyone is asleep and the house is quiet; she enjoys being the only one awake.
Another question raised to these stellar alumni includes where they found their inspiration. Fadojutimi mentioned how her inspiration comes from her family, and, in terms of literary influences, she finds inspiration from strong Black women in literature, such as Toni Morrison. Johnson cites his inspiration from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a magical realist writer, and that his SMP focused on magical realism. He said the “thing that’s interested me about his work is his particular voice and the way he can blend…the magic into the reality” that creates this grand, and yet natural occurrence. Johnson mentions that he aspires to capture this way of writing in the way that Marquez does this through his work.
Fadojutimi shared this powerful piece of advice with SMCM listeners, writers, and readers: “start taking yourself seriously as a writer.” Liming advised on how to revise poetry, she said not to force the revision of the poem that is on the page, but to instead rewrite the poem.
As the last Voices Reading of the Fall 2020 semester, this allowed the reunion of many alumni to virtually return to SMCM. These fabulous writers shared their talents with their home community, and like the St. Mary’s Way, current students, faculty and staff emerged eager to welcome them back.