Reviewed by Nam Tran, Edited by Allie Schulz
Before me stood the delinquently mad and madly delinquent members of a guild comprised of a generation of polymaths, the future and new renaissance of a world awaiting its metamorphosis: the students and professors in the infamous MALAS- Master of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences- program at San Diego State University. The experiment beckoned for a mixture of equal parts curiosity, discipline, and support with emphasis on the “INTER-.” The dynamicisms originated from the conception of a motley crew of innovative pioneers. The idea was that a fusion of seemingly disconnected disciplines could yield a group of people to become capable and forward, backward, multi-directional thinking individuals. The experiment was a success and has continued to be a success for 25 years. That success, revealed by program director Bill Nericcio, is in large part because the program is filled with professors of the “people-person” genre. Continue reading
This spring I didn’t leave San Diego for a minute, and I experienced a multitude of cultural and art events. Here I review the top 20:
1. A Play of The Bluest Eye @ Moxie Theater. What a great rendition, a lighthearted and fun retelling of a classic story. And one of the lead actresses goes to SDSU! Go Aztecs! The Moxie theater is right by campus, and is an intimate but professional space. Ticket prices were very reasonable, so I went to Urban Solace beforehand!! mmmmmm
2. Salon and Reading with poet Matthew Zapruder, at San Diego State. This guy is up there on the list of famous living poets, and was a truly engaging speaker. He leveled with the audience and talked to us like we were old friends, telling us all about his company, Wave Books, and the process of starting it. Most interesting was how he described and brought examples to illustrate the evolution of the Wave Books cover designs. Check them out here!
On May 3rd, 2013, at 8:15pm, San Diego State University’s Creative Writing program hosted a “Graduation Celebration Reading” to celebrate the Master of Fine Arts graduating students. Faculty members and eager listeners joined together to share in this intimate ceremony, celebrating accomplishments.
The event occurred on a cool Friday evening in the SDSU campus’s Scripp’s Cottage building, surrounded by grassy fields, flowering trees, and rippling ponds with bright koi fish and turtles. Upon entering the charming cottage, a mildly lit room, with brown and golden designed carpet, three columns of chairs, and a small stage welcomed the attendees. Many chatted with familiar friends and acquaintances, nibbled on refreshments and then took their seats, facing a stage, graced by a lone podium and microphone.
After a slight delay, the reading began and was introduced by SDSU’s Assistant Professor, Katie Farris. She welcomed listeners and announced that these graduating students would be reading from their own, original works.
Around 15 students comprise the MFA Creative Writing program, creating an intimate and familial atmosphere between the academics. The schedule and the mood for the evening was informal and friendly. Reading participants sat within the crowd of listeners by their loved ones, emerging from the audience as they were announced. Each prior reader was to introduce the following. Since the students appeared to know each other well, introductions ranged from professional to describing friend-like qualities. The varying students stood uniquely, wearing an array of fancy dresses and heels to a more “every-day” traditional style, emphasizing the lax atmosphere. One reader even invited his children up on stage to read with him!
News of engagements and mentions of husbands and friends made the introductions seem personable—more like a gathering and less like an event. Due to trolley delays, an impromptu intermission occurred so that some late guests could be present. While unexpected, it became obvious that this reading was genuinely meaningful for these graduating MFA participants and it was important to have friends and colleagues, who had helped them to this point in their academic and professional careers, present.
Each participating graduating student read either one page from a short story or up to two poems from his or her collections. The poems were beautiful and flowed off the lips of their readers. Additionally, the two fiction pieces captured attention from the audience, all earning generous applauses at each conclusion.
SDSU houses a talented Creative Writing program, as evidenced by the beautiful works of the participants in this graduation reading. The event encapsulated a personable and genuine atmosphere, reminding attendees of the inclusivity of this community. The Graduation Celebration Reading was a rewarding time for graduate students to reflect on their accomplishments and share with an audience. Events like these are memorable and all are always welcoming aspiring artists or lovers of literature to attend.
The following includes a list of the reading participants:
If you’d like to learn more about SDSU’s MFA program, look here!
At 7pm on Wednesday, April 24th, The Hugh C. Hyde Living Writers Series presented a poetry reading from Pura Lopez-Colome and Forrest Gander in Love Library room 430. The event was held by The Department of English and Comparative Literature and the M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing, free and open to the public.
The two poets read, collaboratively, works that included both English and Spanish. As a student who’s taken and thrived in three years of college-level Spanish courses, with the strong desire to become fluent and explore opportunities in the field of literary translation, I loved hearing the two poets work in conjunction with one another. Pura Lopez-Colome was born in Mexico City in 1952 and attended high school in the US. She has published literary criticisms, poems, and translations in a regular column for the newspaper Unomásuno. Some English translations of her work include No Shelter: Selected Poems (2002), Aurora (2008), and Watchword (2012). To open the event, she spoke about the voice in poetry, both externally and within, emphasizing pause and articulation. Much of her poetry, she noted, was inspired by weekly trips she’d make with her children back to Mexico City. Forrest Gander’s publications in poetry include the books Eye Against Eye (2005), Torn Awake (2001), and Science & Steepleflower (1998). In addition to poetry, Gander also does work as a translator, novelist, essayist, and editor of two anthologies. Originally from Barstow, he now lives in Rhode Island with his wife, poet C.D. Wright, teaches at Brown University, and co-edits books for Lost Roads Publishers, a literary small press. Pura Lopez-Colome would recite lines in Spanish, followed immediately by Forrest Gander’s translation or additional lineage in English, and the two went back and forth meshing English and Spanish together. There are many allusions to nature, both in terms of the earth and its inhabitants. This is another subject I have a strong affinity for, as I used to be a vegetarian and love all animals. Even for attendees who knew not a word of Spanish, I could see how this event was very insightful and appreciable. Below is an excerpt I did my best to transcribe from their recitation, I was only able to capture the English lines from Forrest Gander:
…To be able to speak… To be able to speak without contrivance… supreme instance of unbounded pleasure… protected in rapture… to be able to speak. To you, to oneself, to become substantial… A life absorbed in the music… Each note is a mirror… fortunately imperceptible… the tones orchestrated and arranged in personally abstracted space
As a student enthralled by the concept of literary translation, particularly of rhyming poetry, I was able to appreciate this reading very much. I had never before read or even known about poetry that includes the meshing of both Spanish and English. This bilingual representation of literature is especially fascinating to me and may just spark my interest in working on writing poetry, prose, or rhetoric using both English and Spanish as well.
On February 13, 2013, San Diego State University hosted Eli Clare: writer, speaker, activist, teacher, and poet. Students, professors, and community members gathered in the North Education building to listen to Clare’s poetry and prose. Clare is highly respected in the fields of environmental and social justice studies, and introduced by Dr. Sara Giordano, Women’s Studies Professor at San Diego State. Giordano highlighted some of Clare’s work and ‘rabble-rousing’ such as walking across the country for peace.
Clare then captivated the audience with the reading of a work entitled “Meditations on Disabled Bodies, Natural Worlds, and A Politics of Cure.” The reading was broken down into eight sections, with a range of themes that included a discourse on the damaging terms that surround disability, an exploration of why we demand cures for disabled bodies, and an look into our relationship with our environment. He spoke with the kind of dramatic pauses that you just can’t punctuate, sharing a work designed to invoke contemplation through visceral sensation. I had chills when listening to his melancholy description of time spent in a Wisconsin prairie:
You and I walk in the summer rain through a 30 acre pocket of tall-grass prairie that was, not so long ago, one big cornfield… Without the massive web of prairie roots to anchor the earth; bison to turn, fertilize, and aerate the earth; and lightning-strike fire to burn and renew the earth; the land now known as Wisconsin is literally draining away. Rain catches the topsoil, washing it from field to creek to river to ocean.
The language was a braiding together of personal record, critical theory, and this type of quintessential environmental imagery. Successfully taking on the difficult task of comparing the way society treats the environment to the way we treat those with disabilities and queer people; as something to be shaped and controlled, Clare’s lyrical examinations reveal that oppression and destruction are tangled together. Weaved by a web of dueling cultural values: normal vs. abnormal, natural vs. unnatural. Having cerebral palsy and self-identifying as gender-queer, Clare explains that our concept of normal and natural affect how we treat who and what surround us. Using his own body as an example, he created a dialogue on how society makes light of our differences and how painful these constructions can be for someone who is labeled ‘other’. His words have stuck with me for weeks now. “The pressure to conform individually and systemically, these standards are immense… It is not an exaggeration to say that the words unnatural and abnormal haunt me as a disabled person. Or maybe more accurately, they pummel me”. His critique also highlighted how our definitions of the terms normal and natural simultaneously mean so much to the environmental, queer, and disability studies, yet those same definitions slip and slide in meaning and in context.
I think about the words natural and unnatural, normal and abnormal. What was once normal here; what can we consider normal now? Normal and natural dance together, while unnatural and abnormal bully, threaten, patrol the boundaries… How does unnatural technology repair so-called abnormal bodies to their natural ways of being?
Clare posits that disabilities and other supposed abnormalities such as the queer identity are not embraced as just plain variations among humans. Not only in this reading but in his books Exile and Pride and The Marrow’s Telling Clare hopes that our society can begin to step away from these myopic valuations of uniformity. At one point in the reading he called for “a world where a wide range of difference can simply exist as difference.” Thus envisioning a world in which biological and cultural diversity thrive, and where we actually embrace the experiences of the multifaceted individual. This talk marked the opening of the Spring 2013 Feminist Research Colloquium. The event was presented by Common Experience and the Department of Womens Studies, and co-sponsored by MALAS (the Master of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences) and Safe-Zones @ SDSU. I would highly recommend interdisciplinary readings/writings of Eli Clare to anyone and everyone, especially those interested in environmental or social justice. The reading in its entirety can be found here