Catawba students perform poetry in downtown Salisbury

Published 12:01 am Thursday, November 12, 2015

By Anna Beth Carter

Catawba College

Some members of the Salisbury community recently heard Catawba College student Christopher Soulies read from his poem, “Untitled.”

When the moonbeams pierce the transom we’ll use them as celestial handrails

to enslave our masters —

and become them.

Soulies was one of the students in Dr. Janice Fuller’s Creative Writing: Poetry class at the college who showcased their poetry by performing at different downtown Salisbury venues in late October. For Soulies, the experience pushed him out of his comfort zone.

“Laird Hamilton once said that a person needs to do something that scares them as often as possible,” Soulies shared. “For me, it is poetry; especially reading it in front of the immensely talented people gathered at our past two readings. These experiences have ignited in me a fresh adoration for these artists and their works.”

The Literary Bookpost, an independent downtown bookstore, hosted the first poetry performance. The evening began with an original Contemporary Gospel song, written and performed by Julia McRae, who also read a selection of her poems like this excerpt from her “Untitled:”

From the rotted cocoon you came

Breaking, bursting forth

Leaving debris from your nest

Your nasty, neglected tomb

Other student musicians from Catawba included Darryl Bell and Team Black who performed Neo-Soul style music, creating a moving and expressive atmosphere. Other students who read in addition to Soulies and McRae included Ashley Everidge, Sara Sellers, Tyler Adams, Daniel Mowery and Courtney Briscoe.

The students chose some of their favorite poems to perform that were created in Fuller’s class. The poems stemmed from the same assignments and prompts, and covered a variety of topics and themes, demonstrating the unique experiences and styles each individual poet has to offer. General topics of the poems included writing about a small object, memory poems, food poems and writing “off the subject.”

McRae shared, “Both this experience and this class have pushed my writing, often in new and uncomfortable directions. This level of discomfort has not only forced me to try things I would not have otherwise, but opened up a plethora of new possibilities for my art. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Fuller, a professor of English and writer-in-residence at Catawba, said, “At the Bookpost, the blending of the energy of our exceptional musicians with the more pensive quality of the poets made for a perfect evening. How better to be inspired to read poetry than in the company of musicians, books, poetry lovers, and books and books and books.”

Featured artwork from exhibiting artists Elsa Hoffman and Meredith Connelly at Waterworks Visual Arts Center served as the backdrop for inspiration as the students visited the art museum and then created poetry they shared about a selected piece of artwork for their second assignment. Both artists use themes of illumination in their work.

The Hoffman exhibit includes many life-size, thin-cut, steel wild animals backlit to highlight different designs and geometric patterns cut out in the figures. Meredith Connelly uses paper to create many different shapes that actually involve light intermingling within the pieces of art.

This concept of illumination was one that student Daniel Mowery was able to capture in this excerpt from his poem, “Butterfly:”

White butterfly flitting

In the night

Beware your journey

In the navy blue sky

Silver moon lights your way

The dark always envied a beautiful sight

Before the students gave their second reading at Waterworks, their audience had the opportunity to observe each piece of artwork, allowing for a clear connection between the artwork and the poems.

“I was more than pleased that our poetry students were able to study the extraordinary art exhibitions by Meredith Connelly and Elsa Hoffman and then develop poems that were all well-crafted,” said Fuller. “Hearing back-to-back poems responding to the same work reminded me of how distinctive each person’s imagination and voice can be.

“It’s hard for me to convey how proud I was of our poetry students as they read at Literary Bookpost and Waterworks Visual Arts Center. Both readings were celebrations of the convergence of different arts. The students and I are grateful to the Literary Bookpost and Waterworks Visual Arts Center for hosting us and our enthusiastic listeners.”

Other student poets from Fuller’s class who participated in the readings included: Tyler Adams, Maria Adkins, Brittany Beal, Caitlin Billings, Courtney Briscoe, Shaun Cammack, Anna Beth Carter, Erin Dougherty, Ashley Everidge, Jessika Green, Caitlin Rimmer, Sara Sellers, Melissa Tarduno, Rose Weber and Sam Yeager.

Carter is a member of the Catawba class of 2016.