On Thursday, March 29, the Wilkes University Manuscript Society and Gay-Straight Alliance teamed up for the first time to present a poetry reading in Kirby Hall.
Though the event was not scheduled as a memorial to prize-winning poet, feminist and outspoken lesbian Adrienne Rich, who died last week, assistant professor Helen Davis paid tribute to Rich’s life during her opening introduction.
“(Rich) was a very formative writer for me, in my journey of becoming who I am,” Davis said to the near-30 attendees gathered for the event. “She was a really important voice in the LGBT community. … “I think anytime anyone struggles with something, one of the possible outlets for that struggle is art.”
In that spirit, more than 10 speakers, including both students and faculty members, read selections of poetry from sources as wide-ranging as self-described “black, lesbian, feminist, mother, poet warrior” Audre Lorde and William Shakespeare. Some of the most enthusiastic receptions, however, came in response to those speakers who presented original works which offered their personal views on the themes of the event.
One such poet was Manuscript member Miranda Baur, who defied categorization as either “gay” or “straight,” opting instead to label herself “a something.” Nevertheless, she described her reading as a chance to “come out” to a gathering of her peers, and voiced her hope that events such as this might inspire others to do the same.
“Before I was a ‘something,’ I was a straight,” she said. “This is a great opportunity for people to realize that there is a basis for them. They have support. People are there for them.”
Wilkes GSA president John Carroll read “Footnote to Howl,” by Allen Ginsberg. Carroll said he would like to see GSA and Manuscript team up again for similar events.
“We hope that, by having a dialogue on a regular basis, we can help to raise awareness and, through events like this, build a community that is more accepting of everyone, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, race, creed, whatever it may be.”
Wilkes GSA meets at noon every Tuesday in the Kirby salon. Manuscript meets at 11 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Stark Learning Center, Room 7.