Poet Luisa A. Igloria Featured in VOICES Reading Series

By Charlotte Mayer

The VOICES Reading Series held its first reading of the school year on Thursday, Sept. 9. It took place in Daugherty-Palmer Commons at 8:15 p.m. and featured the accomplished writer, professor, and poet Luisa A. Igloria.

Igloria is the author of “Maps for Migrants and Ghosts,” “The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis” and 12 other books. She is also a professor at Old Dominion University for their MFA Creative Writing program. 

Igloria was originally from Baguio City in the Philippines. She is an 11-time recipient of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature, which is the Philippines’ most prestigious literary prize, and was the inaugural recipient of the 2015 Resurgence Poetry Prize in the U.K. for ecopoetry. In July of 2020 she was appointed the 20th Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia. According to the Poetry Foundation, she has been writing at least a poem a day since November of 2010. 

After being introduced by SMCM English professor Jeffrey Coleman, Igloria began the reading with a poem written by Emma Lazarus, called “The New Colossus.” She first read it in English and then her own translation in the Filipino language. This poem is about the Statue of Liberty and fits well with the theme of America and the immigrant experience, which Igloria has written about, sometimes in epistolary poems. These are poems written in the style of letters such as “Dear America.” 

SMCM students had various reactions. “I’ve been to a lot of VOICES readings,” said senior Quincey Poersch. When asked about Thursday’s reading, she said, “It went pretty well. I felt like the intro was a little rough. The transition from zoom to in-person was a little shaky.”

Another SMCM senior, Charlotte Mac Kay, said, “I thought the VOICES reading was beautiful! Igloria was very down-to-earth and her poetry was striking and relatable. It felt like being a small part of history!”

“Poem With Statues Falling” is a piece written by Igloria that was featured in The New York Times. It was put in a new time capsule made after the Robert E. Lee monument in Virginia was removed. 

One of Igloria’s books is called “Ode to the Heart Smaller Than a Pencil Eraser.” This collection contains a poem called “How to Flinch.” Igloria explained that the inspiration for this poem came from the way literary reviews often praise a work by calling it “unflinching.” As a poet, Igloria feels it is her duty to provoke a bit of discomfort or “flinching” with her work to make people feel things. 

Another poem she read was called “Wanderer,” also from the book “Ode to the Heart Smaller Than a Pencil Eraser.” A particularly striking phrase from this poem was “turning sorrow into sustenance.” Igloria was inspired by the way that characters in folklore or fairy tales are often made to do impossible labor or tasks.  

In the book “The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-life Crisis,” Igloria explores the idea of the Buddha in modern life with what she calls Buddha persona poems. “The Buddha goes on the internet” is one example. “It is not easy to think of the ideal as less than the ideal,” said Igloria. 

In “Maps for Migrants and Ghosts,” Igloria writes not just about loss but also “the sense of being dislocated” that many immigrants experience. Sometimes “you feel like you are in two bodies,” she says. Her poem “Decryption” addresses her own personal trauma. 

“The fruit isn’t to blame for its sheen, nor the star for marking the place where its light was last seen,” wrote Igloria in her poem “Orchard.” Some of these poems can be found on the Poetry Foundation website.

VOICES readings will occur throughout the semester on Thursday evenings at 8:15 p.m. in Daugherty-Palmer Commons. All readings are free and open to the public.

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” Debuts To Critical Acclaim, Breaks Box Office Record

By Annilee Hampton

“Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” Marvel’s first film with an Asian lead, was finally released on Sept. 3 after many delays, receiving positive reviews and an incredible box office turnout. 

Leading up to its release date, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” already had an uphill battle to fight. The film was originally scheduled to release on Feb. 12, 2021, which happened to coincide with Chinese New Year. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the film’s release date was shifted to May 7, then to July 9, and finally to its final Sept. 3 release date when “Black Widow” took over the previous date. Unlike “Black Widow,” which was released simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access, “Shang-Chi” had a 45-day exclusive theatrical release. 

In August 2021, Disney CEO Bob Chapek stated that the film would remain in theaters despite the rise of the delta variant, saying that it would be an “interesting experiment” for the company to continue to evaluate its release strategy moving forwards. Simu Liu, who plays the titular character, responded to this comment with a Tweet saying “We are not an experiment. We are the underdog; the underestimated. We are the ceiling-breakers. We are the celebration of culture and joy that will persevere after an embattled year. We are the surprise. I’m fired the f**k up to make history on September 3rd; JOIN US.”

Liu’s prediction was correct: “Shang-Chi” did in fact make history. The film made $94 million domestically during its opening weekend, surpassing 2007’s “Halloween” to break the box-office record for Labor Day weekend. During its second weekend, its earnings declined by only 2.1 percent. In comparison, “F9,” which was released in June and was also a theatrical exclusive, declined by 43.8% over its second weekend. 

In addition, the film was incredibly successful amongst both critics and audiences, with an audience score of 98% and a critic score of 92% — placing it in the top five for the Marvel Cinematic Universe — on Rotten Tomatoes. The fight scenes and choreography were some of the most praised elements of the film, with Laura Sirikul of Empire calling it the best yet in the MCU and describing it as “hypnotic” and “mesmerizing.” The cast’s performance was also applauded, with Liu as well as Tony Leung being mentioned as standouts. Angie Han from The Hollywood Reporter calls Leung’s Wenwu, Shang-Chi’s grieving father, “a supervillain with a soul,” praising his sincere performance. 

The film has also been acclaimed for its Asian representation. After 23 movies, Shang-Chi is the MCU’s first Asian protagonist. The representation offered in the film has been positively compared to that which “Black Panther” gave Black audiences in 2018 by critics such as Variety’s Peter Debruge. It is notable that “Shang-Chi” begins with a character narrating in subtitled Chinese, with nearly half of the rest of the film being in the same language. It is like nothing Marvel has ever done before, which, in this case, is likely a positive attribute. Nick Allen of RogerEbert.com puts it best when he says, “This movie is not an experiment for Marvel and Disney. It is a promising template for how they can get it right again.”

Student Artist Spotlight: Maggie Malia

Maggie Malia

By Eleanor Pratt 

Senior Maggia Malia has been creating art for her entire life. From a young age she was teaching herself to draw and paint using tutorials from the internet. One of her earliest memories is going to Barnes & Noble with her grandparents and getting a Harry Potter sketchbook to learn from. From this point on, art became a central part of her life. 

Malia’s interest in different mediums has allowed her to experiment and find which art style works best for her at any given moment. Painting is more of an emotional, looser experience for her, while drawing with pen and ink makes her slow down and concentrate on each detail. For Malia, art, in whatever medium she works in, is about self-expression and connecting with both herself and those who view her creations. 

The piece featured in this article is an example of that self-expression. It depicts her tense relationship with her identity as a sapphic woman and the struggle to find a label that truly felt right. The unicorn is representative of how often feminine LGBT women were called unicorns and the girl ripping off the horn shows Malia’s shame in not feeling like she deserves to call herself a lesbian. The artwork is ripe with symbolism, with the moon, half-moon on the girl’s forehead, and flowers all connecting to her identity.

Malia has loved her experience with her professors, fellow students, and staff at SMCM however, it has been frustrating recently due to administration’s program cuts last semester. As an art history minor, Malia was incredibly saddened to hear that the program was being destroyed, as she felt having that historical foundation and connection made her own art better. 

For future students, she warned that cutting this program would be a huge detriment to their education and future as artists. Malia found it to be “…very disappointing and very silly,” especially since she has it on good authority from friends that give tours of the school that students will often come for a tour of campus and specifically ask about the art history program. 

Because of this frustration with the school, Malia is planning on graduating early this semester because she does not feel the school deserves any more of her money after the cuts. She decided to come to SMCM for the full liberal arts experience, in the hope that learning about other subjects and disciplines would make her art even better. She is disappointed that the college is not living up to its full potential, expressing: “The school should really embrace what it is. A small liberal arts college with a beautiful campus; not a tiny University of Maryland.” 

After graduation, Malia hopes to go into children’s book illustration. Her capstone project is creating a children’s book, which she hopes to publish as soon as she can. She loves the accessibility of art in children’s stories, with one of her inspirations being the beloved author Beatrix Potter. 

While Malia’s time at SMCM was tinged with frustration and sadness due to the program cuts, she still loved her classes and classmates and really admired how dedicated her professors were. She will continue to create art as she has done for her entire life, no matter the obstacles life throws at her.  

Kanye West’s Album, Donda, is Released

By: Lily Riesett

On July 23, 2021, rapper Kanye West held a rather out of the ordinary event in honor of his tenth studio album, “Donda.” Named after his late mother who died of plastic surgery complications in 2007, this album has stirred up commotion not just in pop culture news, but across all news categories. 

This excitement began in July of this year, when Kanye announced a listening party for the album at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. This was very different from his “The Life of Pablo” listening and Yeezy Season Three release which was held in Madison Square Garden. While this was presented in the form of a fashion show and was very successful, the listening in Atlanta was definitely out of the ordinary. West spent the evening standing in the middle of the stadium surrounded by fog. He danced and made gestures while his new music played in the background for about an hour before leaving. 

To follow up this strange evening of events, Donda was not released at the time it was announced to be: on July  23at midnight. West’s record label and representatives made no comments on this. A second similar event in Atlanta happened later in July. 

Kanye held a third listening event for his album in Chicago during the end of August. Here, he had a recreation of his childhood home built and set on a hill in the middle of an arena. He had circles of dancers and black cars surrounding the set. West then decided to bring two guests on stage with him, rapper DaBaby and rock musician Marilyn Manson. 

DaBaby has recently come under fire for making homophobic remarks at Lolapalooza where he singled out fans who have been effected by HIV/AIDS. Manson has been accused of sexual abuse and grooming by his partner Evan Rachel Wood. The two publicly became a couple when she was 19 and Manson was 38. Jon Caramanica of the New York Times suggests West chose these guests to show that even those who have sinned can be forgiven. 

After a lengthy amount of anticipation for the album’s release, Donda was dropped on streaming services on Aug. 29, over a month later than it was supposed to be. The album features 27 songs, being over two hours in length. He has many popular artists featured on the album, such as Jay-Z and Lil Baby. West continues using religious themes in this album, talking to and about God in most songs. For example, he raps “God got us, baby, God got the children.” The illusions to God and Christianity can be considered one of the focal points of the album. 

Music fanatic and St. Mary’s student Greta Michels was one of the fans anxiously awaiting the drop of Donda. Michels excitedly exclaimed when asked about the album “ “Off the Grid” is my favorite song!” Michels, like many other Kanye fans, is not a fan of his confusing, problematic actions. She acknowledges “Kanye is problematic, but he makes good music.”

What Is BookTok?

By Charlotte Mayer

Recently, the term “BookTok” has popped up in college conversations, leaving many confused. What exactly is BookTok?

Booktok is an online community of book lovers on the social media platform known as TikTok. People on BookTok create all kinds of book-related content such as reviews, recommendations, hauls, aesthetics and more. These videos can range from a few seconds to three minutes. 

It all started with the increasing popularity of TikTok when COVID-19 quarantine began. Scrolling through the app to ease boredom, people found a new space to share their passions and express their creativity. Quarantine also led a lot of people to pick up new hobbies such as reading. 

BookTok is the place to be if you are trying to decide what to read next. It is full of recommendations, which spread extremely fast. One viral video can send a swarm of people to the bookstore. 

For many authors, this platform has greatly helped their career. Previously unpopular books are finding their way onto Barnes & Noble shelves and into the hands of excited readers who maybe never would have picked them up if it were not for BookTok. 

Author Adam Silvera released a book four years ago called “They Both Die at the End.” According to NBC News, in August of 2020, Silvera’s publisher noticed a significant sales bump, “the start of a trend that would send the book to the top of the New York Times’ young adult paperback monthly bestseller list in April.” He had no idea where the sales spike was coming from until a reader told him they saw it on BookTok. “TikTok videos containing the hashtag #TheyBothDieAtTheEnd have collectively amassed more than 37 million views to date,” says NBC.

A common way to convince viewers to read a book is to explain what trope it may have. Tropes are plot elements or cliches, such as hidden royalty, the “chosen one,” fake dating, love triangle, slow burn, friends to lovers, morally gray villains, grumpy/sunshine, and the much-loved enemies to lovers, also known as hate to love. Book recommendation videos such as “books that made me sob” or “books I couldn’t put down” are another way to reach readers. 

“I think BookTok is really clever,” says Regan Farrar, a sophomore at SMCM. “You think someone is telling a story and then they say ‘read the book to find out more!’”

“I always get sucked in,” she adds. “And then you think ‘oh my gosh, now I have to go buy the book.’” 

An anonymous SMCM sophomore says “I enjoy getting recommendations, however, I feel like some aspects of [BookTok] are problematic because a lot of people on it support authors who are not good people.”

They say that it is “not super diverse in terms of book recommendations or the characters in the books” and feel that these recommendations can become repetitive. “It’s a lot of the same books.” Overall, they think BookTok “needs to be more diverse and more open to criticism about books and authors, but also ‘BookTokers’ themselves.”

Over the past few months, this community has been reaching even more people. In fact, there is now a designated “BookTok” section at Barnes & Noble, as well as “spicy Booktok.” As one can imagine, these are mainly romance books with adult content. 

“On top of book recommendations,” says the Barnes & Noble website, BookTok has “other relatable videos for book lovers like ‘which dress are you wearing to dramatically run through a castle to your lover?’ or ‘the zodiac signs as Hunger Games districts.’”

Some fiction titles made popular by BookTok include “It Ends With Us” by Colleen Hoover, “The Song of Achilles” by Madelline Miller, “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid and more. In the YA fantasy section, there is “Shatter Me” by Tahereh Mafi, “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo, and “The Cruel Prince” by Holly Black. 

Can’t decide what to read next? Head over to #BookTok. 

Increased Catcalling on Campus Needs Addressing

While SMCM students have only been on campus during the fall 2021 semester for a few weeks, students, especially female students, have started to see an increase in catcalling. This has become a hindrance for many female students, causing them to feel uncomfortable when walking around campus near Route 5.

Lily Riesett

While SMCM students have only been on campus during the fall 2021 semester for a few weeks, students, especially female students, have started to see an increase in catcalling. This has become a hindrance for many female students, causing them to feel uncomfortable when walking around campus near Route 5. This behavior is coming from men who do not seem to be students of the school, but are rather community members on their daily commute. Though Route 5 is not under the school’s jurisdiction and the school cannot control the actions of these outside community members, it is becoming such a scary place for women to be and the school needs to act. 

Students at SMCM have experienced similar situations when it comes to being verbally harassed on Route 5. One female student says that “Typically, someone will drive up from behind me and stick their head out of their window and then whistle, shout, or say a ‘compliment’ in their eyes.” Another relays her most alarming situation, where “a vehicle pulled over in front of me, blocked my path, and shouted loudly from his window.” Both students have been forced to avoid Route 5 altogether when it is dark out or when they are alone. One even stopped running outside out of fear of being harassed. 

Though this is an issue the school has little control over, there are steps that could be taken to easily protect the safety of female presenting students. One female student says “I would feel much safer if there was a separate semi-hidden path along Route 5. For example, a paved sidewalk with bushes or trees as a barrier between the path and Route 5. With a path like that, students could walk freely without having to search for a buddy to come with, or feeling as if they need to look over their shoulder the whole time.” Other students just want it to be acknowledged by the school that it is a problem. Even if SMCM cannot do anything, knowing the administration is on the side of verbal assault victims is a step in the right direction.

Catcalling on campus caught the attention of the Title IX team following the 2021 Campus Climate Survey that was conducted last semester. There was a 30% response rate to the survey which, while less than half of the student body, was a 27% increase from the 2020 survey. This survey highlighted Route 5 as a place where students feel uncomfortable on campus. When asked why they feel uncomfortable, “Catcalling” was a frequently given answer.

The Title IX office has made steps so this issue is addressed properly on campus. When asked, Michael Dunn and Helen Anne Lawless said they have begun working on multiple initiatives to combat street harassment. One thing they will be doing is hosting focus groups with members of the campus community to gauge what the problem is like from a student’s perspective. They also want to use these meetings to hear any solutions students have thought of and foster a community of support for harassed students. Information for these focus groups will be released soon. The Title IX office has also explored the idea of getting signage to try and stop harassment. Lawless said that states who have implemented signage for anti-littering have seen a decrease in littering, so this method could result in some decline in street harassment on campus. Most importantly, the Title IX office wants students to know they are there to listen to any concerns students have while everyone tries to navigate this form of harassment.

Back to Normal? Campus Opinions on In-Person Learning

The last 18 months have been extremely strange and stressful. Online learning and social distancing rules took its toll on colleges across the world. St. Mary’s students, faculty and staff were no exception to this. This is why coming back in person has our campus cautiously excited for the future. 

The last 18 months have been extremely strange and stressful. Online learning and social distancing rules took its toll on colleges across the world. St. Mary’s students, faculty and staff were no exception to this. This is why coming back in person has our campus cautiously excited for the future. 

Junior Julia Fitzpatrick transferred last fall and has not had anything close to a normal semester at St. Mary’s until now. So far, she is loving her professors and has enjoyed seeing everyone on campus for the first time. Due to less social distancing measures, she can now hang out with more of her friends and is even looking forward to joining new clubs she did not get the chance to try last year. 

Online classes were difficult for her due to her learning best when she can interact with her professors and classmates in person. While she is excited to be back, she did note that she was “a little nervous if people decide to party, but since everyone is basically vaccinated I’m more comfortable.” 

Indeed, as of Sept. 15, the vaccination rate on campus stands at 94%, which has eased a lot of fears on campus. For instance, Joanne Goldwater, the Associate Dean for Retention and Student Success, felt much better about returning to campus with the vaccine and mask mandates in place. While there is still some worry for vulnerable populations on campus, she expressed that she trusts St. Mary’s students and believes that they “…have the capacity and capability to stay safe.” 

Goldwater did not enjoy teaching her sign-language classes on Zoom as they exhausted and frustrated her. If the college had continued a completely hybrid model, she was not sure if she would have continued teaching at all, so she is very excited and relieved classes are in person now. From a business perspective, Goldwater also noted that for a small college like St. Mary’s, it was simply not sustainable to continue doing everything online, even if she herself did enjoy how distraction-free her home office was. 

Professor Charles Musgrove of the history department expressed similar sentiments when asked about whether the college would ever consider returning to a hybrid model. While it is always going to be a remote possibility, he does not believe it is going to happen given the current political climate surrounding going back online. 

Like many, Musgrove is concerned about more vulnerable populations on campus because St. Mary’s does not have a 100% vaccination rate yet, but trusts that masking and mandated vaccinations will keep the community safe. He would have applied to teach via Zoom if he had any doubts about this semester. Although there is still some worry and uncertainties, Musgrove expressed, “I’m a lot less pessimistic about this semester than I was last semester,” which seems to be a very similar sentiment to many this fall. 

It seems the majority of people are glad to be back on campus. Seeing the campus transformed from a ghost town of last year to the bustling college it is now has been a welcome change for students, faculty, and staff. There is a hesitant hope in the air that maybe the college could be going back to some kind of normal, but we will have to just wait and see.