October 24, 2020

Poets tackle sex, dialogue and death at first Student Reading Series

By Shaun Fitzpatrick

Three talented students performed at the Student Reading Series on Oct. 8 in the lounge of the Business Building. Freshman English major Mary Dwyer, junior English major Rebecca Baum, and junior interactive multimedia major Esteban Martinez all presented original pieces to the delight of the attentive crowd.

Martinez, a member of New Jersey’s 2009 LoserSlam National Slam Team, wowed the crowd with his elaborate hand gestures and fast-talking style. Although his poems dealt with serious topics such as unplanned pregnancies and strained family relationships, Martinez broke the tension with jokes throughout his performance.

“I feel really awkward when no one claps after I go,” he said after one of his pieces, referring to a request made at the beginning of the show, asking the audience to hold its applause until the end. This was greeted with laughter and applause from the crowd, who ignored the initial call for silence for the rest of the night.

Martinez continued to captivate the audience with the remainder of his poems. “I can see it now in The Signal ‘Man who can’t come during sex!’” He laughed at the end of a particular piece that mentioned his sex life.

Martinez finished off his set to cheers from the audience, who enjoyed his ability to cover solemn topics while still managing to poke fun at himself, such as mentioning in his bio that he enjoys “long walks on the beach and is housebroken.”

Martinez was followed by Baum, who was introduced by assistant professor of English Nagesh Rao, who praised her work, jokingly referring to her as a “riot girl” and a “radical feminist.”

Her poetry consisted of powerful, thought-provoking works often centered on death and loss. A particularly provocative piece dealt with Baum’s dilemma regarding what to do with the objects left in the car belonging to her dead brother-in-law. Her set did have some light-hearted moments, however. A crowd favorite was a poem she wrote about a boy named Ken, mentioning her admiration at his pinball score.

The show was opened by Dwyer, who was introduced by her mother. Her five pieces covered a variety of topics, and showcased this young poet’s sophisticated writing style. One poem in particular, “Two From Opposite Sides of a Shooting Rink,” stood out due to Dwyer’s impressive use of dialogue between her narrators.

When asked if she experienced any nerves being the youngest presenter, she replied that she had.

“I’ve performed my work in high school … but I was definitely nervous performing in front of scary college kids,” she said.

Dwyer’s poems were received with a respectful hush from the crowd, who saved its applause for the end of her set.

The Student Reading Series is sponsored by Ink. The next reading will take place on Nov. 3.

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