By Allison McCausland
A&E and Online Editor
On the evening of Oct. 18 and 19 in the DUC, DeSales hosted its 34th Annual Poetry Festival with special guest poet and recipient of the 2006 Pew Fellowships in the Arts award, Elaine Terranova. The festival began with a dinner for the Discourse Creative Writing Honors Society that occurs twice a year in which students across a variety of majors are honored for their writing ability.
Each dinner has a guest speaker, this year with Terranova, invited to talk to the writers about their experience as well as share some of their works with the students and faculty in attendance.
After the dinner, there is a campus-wide poetry reading from the guest speaker organized by the festival’s head, Dr. Stephen Myers. The room was packed tight with students, faculty and outside poet-enthusiasts as Myers introduced Terranova to the crowd and allowed her to read some of her newest works from her recently published book, Perdido.
Terranova, herself a Philadelphia native, often writes about everyday items or experiences that strike her or relate to her own narrative and history. As Myers stated in his introduction, Terranova finds the “logic of illogic” in the subjects she writes about not only in Perdido, but in her other six published collections as well.
For 40 minutes, Terranova soothed the audience with selected poems including “Wedding Cento,” written for a friend who was in a wedding, “Left Fork,” based on a walk she once took in the woods and “History,” a callback to her Jewish heritage and their tragic role in World War II. The titular poem “Perdido” was also read, having been based on a jazz song Terranova once heard that tends to play for an extended period of time.
However, the poems that really struck the audience were her series of works under the title of “Doll House,” based on the comparison of a toy doll family to regular American families, and “Goodbye Sofa Bed,” in which she details the lifespan of a flowered upholstered sofa that had inhabited her home for over 30 years akin to a loved one. Each of these selected works corroborated the statement that “poetry thinks through image” with each of the works reflecting a reaction or musing relating to a tangible event or subject.
Once Terranova concluded reading, there was a short question and answer segment before the audience dispersed and was given the opportunity to purchase her new book and have it signed by the author. Based on the line that slinked across the right side of the room, Terranova had made quite the number of new fans while also getting the chance to meet other aspiring writers.
The festival continued into the next day as over a hundred students from local high schools poured into the DUC to participate in the poetry readings and workshops the event is known for hosting. It was also during this time that Terranova, along with other local poets and writing teachers, was able to read again from Perdido and work with groups of students to improve their writing abilities to become poets themselves.
This portion of the festival is particularly important as it hosts a poetry contest in which the winning submission receives the grand prize of a full ride scholarship to DeSales. Freshmen English major Lorynn Watt was recognized during the current selection as well as making an appearance the night before as last year’s winner for her poem “Hospital Gowns.”
Nevertheless, even those students who lost were still given the opportunity to read their works in an open micesque poetry reading as the festival drew to a close. The reading, much like it is every year, was the highlight of the students’ day since they have the chance to express themselves and cheer each other on in the presence of fellow poets.
Overall, the festival’s success and inspiration to aspiring writers, thanks to the effort made by Myers and guest speaker Terranova, guarantees the excitement and draw that it is sure to bring with next year’s 35th event.