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Poetry readings can be both inspiring and exciting

Chris McGrady | Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sliding skillfully below the radar of most Notre Dame students, the Notre Dame Creative Writing Program is a department that doesn’t scream for attention. The program quietly holds gatherings and readings in off-campus locations, and for the lucky and attentive listeners, those who attend know they have found something special. In fact, the literary output of the program is one of hidden gems of this campus.

Wednesday night, two of Notre Dame’s finest student writers – Raechel Lee and Silpa Swarnapuri – joined forces to create a coffee shop reading session of poetry and prose that was truly amazing. Lee read poetry, Swarnapuri worked with prose, and both proved to be extremely skilled.

The thing is, I didn’t really even want to go the reading. My roommate was going as a student of one of Lee’s classes, and he asked if I wanted to tag along. Reluctantly – and with the image of off-campus Chipotle burritos dancing in my head – I agreed to go. I figured, “I’m an English major. I like writing and reading poetry. I like Chipotle. A lot.” I had never been to a poetry reading, and figured outside of the cultural hubs of major cities, I should keep my expectations low. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Lee’s poetry screamed of talent. Polished, unpretentious, and profound, the poems brought ink and paper to life. I had never met Lee before, but like all good writers, Lee’s work seemed to contain her. It made me wonder what I had been missing out on.

Swarnapuri, originally from India, was equally adept. She wrote stories with undertones, whether overt or more hidden, of her Indian background. Her skillful prose leapt off the page with action and emotion. She went second in her reading, and I was truly disappointed when her last story ended.

These readings struck me on several levels, but one thing it made me realize was the lack of attention some of these finer programs get from the general student body. I know poetry isn’t for everyone, but this marginalization goes for so many cultural events on campus. Outside of those with some direct connection to the people putting on the event, it seems attention is minimal. Poor attendance at academic and socially-aware movies, small crowds of the student body at art exhibits and finally the lack of recognition for outstanding events like the readings at Lula’s cafe, which sits just off Edison Road, right across from the Linebacker. As fine of an institution as the ‘Backer is, I promise you Lula’s is equally amazing, albeit in a different way.

Trust me, I’m not chastising anyone for not attending some of these cultural events. They really aren’t for everyone. But as a guy who didn’t really want to go this reading in the first place, I’m sure glad that I did.

I want to encourage people to maybe step outside of their bubble a little bit and attend some of these events around campus. They are happening all the time.

Of course, there’s the possibility that you might hate it, but then again, you might not. And there’s only one way to find out.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.