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Twelve undergraduate poets read their work on Tuesday afternoon at the 16th annual Yale Collection of American Literature Reading Series.

The students were nominated by faculty members who teach poetry and creative writing classes. Each poet read two to three poems, most of which were printed in pamphlets that organizers provided to the audience. The event attracted students from Hamden High School as well as members of the New Haven community. The event was co-sponsored by the Creative Writing Program and the Yale Collection of American Literature at the Beinecke.

“I’ve always wanted to be a writer,” said Rachel Kaufman ’19, who spoke at the event. “I’m recently interested in writing historical poetry. I spent last summer living in Spain and working in a museum, but I also was writing a book and doing research on Spanish memorialization of Jewish history.”

One of Kaufman’s poems centered on Spanish memory of Jewish people and included an interweaving of historical facts and her family’s personal stories. Her other poem focused on a unique experience she had with an ant infestation.

About 100 people, representing a wide variety of age groups, attended the event.

Beinecke curator Nancy Kuhl said that for her, the reading is one of the most exciting events at the Beinecke each year.

“We print a chapbook for the event which includes each of the poets’ work in print, but I especially value the opportunity to hear each writer read their own work,” Kuhl said. “I always learn something new about a poem when I hear it in the poet’s voice.”

For student poet Nathan Brown ’19, the event was the first time he had read his poems aloud. Brown, an English major who became interested in creative writing while at Yale, performed two poems, “False Cognates” and “Maze Days,” in which he sought to evoke the sense of being lost while yearning for something in the past.

A group of high school students from the Writers’ Club at Hamden High School was among those in attendance. Eleventh grader Maya Verghese said that the pieces performed by Dasia Moore ’18 spoke to her most.

Moore — whose poetry drew from her experiences in Reidsville, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina, and a handful of other southern cities and towns — recited two poems. The first poem, “White Woman That I Loved,” dealt with issues of love and race, while the second, “Canal Poem,” discussed the semester she spent in Amsterdam.

“I could really see how her experiences connected with her poetry and it made it all the more meaningful,” Verghese said.

English professor and Director of Creative Writing Richard Deming helped organize the event. He said he appreciated that there is no one kind of “Yale poem.”

“I always look forward to two things — the often impressive, even humbling gifts of the poets who read, and the aesthetic range of the readers,” said Deming, a published poet himself. “The styles and approaches often represent a spectrum from the classical to the radically avant garde.”

Kaufman, who travelled and performed with some of the other performing poets along the Connecticut Poetry Circuit, noted that she enjoyed having a “traveling community.”

Deming emphasized that there is something special about the art of performing poetry aloud.

“[P]oetry is, at its heart, connected to music and sound and so best to have the work reveal its musicality by being read aloud,” Deming said. “Poets speak the present moment, so it pays to be collectively present at such moments.”

Meera Rothman |