Students display poetic talent
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Chuckles, smiles, and hums of introspective appreciation filtered through Hieronymus Lounge last Thursday as three seniors presented their original poetry. This semester, Drew Hansen, Ilana Baer, and Grace Teranishi have been working in a poetry tutorial with Dr. Willis, and this was their chance to share their work with the greater Westmont Community. Described by senior Jenna Catalon as “really moving,” the evening left listeners in awe of the poetic talent that all three possess.
Hansen took the stand first, the topics of his poems ranging from the nature of poetry to Cædmon (the first English-writing poet) to art to photography and politics. Before beginning, Hansen exclaimed that even in the midst of all his other work, he “just can’t stop writing poetry!” Florida-born Hansen weaved together his appreciation of Cædmon and his love of fishing and the sea in “Cædmon of the Waves,” before moving on to three ekphrastic poems.
Ekphrastic poems are written in response to artwork; Hansen took this a step farther by responding to artwork that was responding to another piece of art. His first poem addressed “Nun and Cardinal Caress” by Egon Schiele, a response to Gustave Klimpt’s “The Kiss.” Hansen’s second ekphrastic poem meditated on “Death and Maiden,” another Schiele painting based off of Hans Baldung’s work of the same name.
Hansen’s final and most sobering piece reacted to not a painting but a photograph. Mentioning his active interest in politics, he wrote in response to one of the Abu Ghraib photos of tortured inmates. Hansen stated that “in it [the photo], I saw the posture of innocent suffering.” Hansen’s favorite poet that he read this semester was Laure-Anne Bosselaar, and has been working on a translation of Beowulf for the English Capstone class.
Baer followed with a wide range of delightful and thought-provoking topics. She pondered crows in “Change of Mood,” poked fun at the authors of The Elements of Style in “Strunk and White go for a Walk,” and praised the work of busy bees in “Consider the Bees” and “Kumquat Vespers.” Perhaps the one that caused the most laughter was “10 Ways to Reconcile,” a poem that humorously addressed the “simultaneous holiday” of Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday.
Her following poems took on a more somber tone, reflecting on “Uncle Matt-Just out of Rehab,” the values of silence in “Lost Rights of the Writing Club,” and the hope we have for the time when God will finally brush away our tears in “Revelation.”
Baer ended with a tribute to candles and her friends David and Emily Kyle in “Sending off the Newlyweds,” and with a joyous “Ode to Open Things” where she proclaimed “Alleluia to unresolved things.” Baer’s favorite poet she has read this semester is Naomi Shihab Nye, and for her Capstone project she is also doing translation work with Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral.
Teranishi introduced her first poem as being one “about butterflies and dreams,” and lamented that her dreams have become more realistic as she got older. As Teranishi is a biology major, the topics of many of her poems come from the natural world. She discussed remembrance in “Attached,” biology ethics in “Hemlock Society,” the “Neap Tide,” and the break-up of Antarctic ice in “Drift.”
A crowd favorite was inspired by a painting by Teranishi’s friend Chelsea Roberts of a whale shark swimming through space breathing stars. Teranishi’s poem “God is a Whale Shark” reflected beautifully on the painting and on Psalm 33:6.
Her most poignant work was “Sommelier,” written after she had gone wine tasting in the areas affected by the Santa Rosa Tubbs Fire. Though most of the poem slightly mocks the art of wine tasting (such as references to wine that contain flavors of “house paint” and “cumulonimbus clouds”), the poem ends with this: “The year is 2017: our pinot may contain notes of charcoal.”
Teranishi’s favorite poet that she has read this semester is Gary Young.