Live Lit took place on October 29th in the Lookout! Gallery of Snyder-Philips Hall. As a first time speaker and a second time attendee, I was filled with both anticipation and excitement for the event. Also reading at the event were fellow Arts and Letters students Cassandra Bloomingdale and Hannah Ramirez. Bloomingdale performed a scene from a play she is currently writing, alongside a few poems about depression and mental illness. Ramirez read a series of short poems about race, ethnicity, and identity. Both of my fellow classmates blew me away with their talent, their craft, and their deliveries—making me feel extremely proud to be reading among them.
Through attending the event last year, I knew how well it created an intimate space for self-expression, and enabled students to showcase the culminations of their hard work and their passions. Considering the high-regard I have for this event, I was extremely honored to be selected as one of the readers. I chose to perform a backwards abecedarian essay I had written last year that documented the loss of my mother. This piece was one I held extremely close to my heart, and tackled topics such as suicidal thoughts, depression, love, and loss. The intimacy of the Live Lit space allowed me to feel comfortable sharing that grief, and provided a great sense of pride in myself following the event. It is such a unique experience, and I would recommend for any artists out there considering submission to go for it. You won’t regret it.
Following the three student readings, a panel took place amongst the audience, us readers, and professors with guiding questions. Also a part of this conversation was visiting poet Romeo Oriogun, a current MFA candidate at the University of Iowa Writers’ Program. This discussion included questions such as “if you were a genre or form of writing, what or form would you be and why” and “what is the best advice you’ve ever received about writing or expression, from anyone”. A new addition to the Live Lit event, this panel was a wonderful way to get both attendees and readers involved in literary conversation.
The following day, I was fortunate enough to join in a lunch conversation with Oriogun where I learned more about his background and his craft. Born in Nigeria, Oriogun did not grow up writing poems. Due to the extreme differences in writing cultures, he never imagined having a book of his own. In Nigeria, Oriogun claimed that writing is seen as a vocation, as opposed to the United States view of it as a production. Because of these discrepancies in culture, Oriogun did not start writing poetry until six years ago. From posting his original drafts on Facebook, to now a published poet, Oriogun tackles topics such as: sexuality, race, culture, politics, and the concept of home.
When asked about the publication process, Oriogun said that his upcoming collection of poems, Sacrament of Bodies, is three years in the making. His deliberate attention to sound took several rounds of revisions to perfect, but after he submitted his manuscript to competition, he had multiple offers for publication. Deliberate in his decision, Oriogun spoke about the troubles with poetry publicity and his specific vision for a cover. In the end, his vision was met by the University of Nebraska Press, and his book will be released in March of 2020.
When it comes to writing spaces, Oriogun prefers loud music but few people. Influenced by the busyness of Nigerian life, he enjoys listening to Afro beats while working on his craft. Contrary to many writers, he cannot write in coffee shops—easily distracted by the colors and sounds of surrounding life, he calls himself a “sucker for beauty”.
When asked what is the best advice you’ve ever received about writing or expression, from anyone, Oriogun responded with a quote from Joan Didion that went “you don’t have to drag yourself through your trauma to be heard”. This resonated with me on both a personal and intellectual level, as the writing I’m currently developing focuses mostly on trauma. Following Live Lit and subsequent luncheon, I feel incredibly thankful for the opportunity to showcase my work and for the space to enter into conversation with such an accomplished poet.
Image 1: http://rcah.msu.edu/uniquely-rcah/lookout/index.html
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