Creative Writing Program students, poet share works

Denise Fabella/WSN

In the small, dark KGB Bar on East Fourth street, a crowd of about 50 people gathered to hear young writers share their works.

The reading, held Friday, Nov. 22, was the final event in the series called the Emerging Writers Reading Series, and featured the works of four students as well as that of poet Natalie Diaz. Diaz’s collection of poetry, “When My Brother Was An Aztec,” was released in 2012.

“The Emerging Writers Reading Series gives the graduate students of the Creative Writing Program an opportunity to publicly read their work at one of Downtown’s most beloved reading venues, KGB Bar,” said Joanna Yas, the Creative Writing Program’s Readings and Special Programs manager.

The purpose of the event is to create and integrate a community of upcoming writers in the Creative Writing Program with local writers in New York City. Previous guest speakers have included Victor LaVa-lle, Cathy Park Hong and Jesse Ball.

“Every reading also features an established author who is chosen by the student curators of the series, giving the students the chance to meet and share the podium with some of their favorite authors,” Yas said.

“It was terrific [to read with Diaz],” said Charif Shanahan, a masters of fine arts candidate in poetry, who read several of his poems at the event. “I love her book, and we’ve gotten to know each other through my work [as programs director at Poetry Society of America]. We’ve crossed paths before, and it was a total privilege to read with her.”

Shanahan took a while before deciding to participate in the Emerging Writers Series during his time at graduate school.

“The idea is for grad students to read with emerging writers, and when I entered the program, I needed more time before reading my poetry in a public venue,” Shanahan said. “I needed time to develop as a poet.”

Laura Pope, who is taking classes in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, said she has attended multiple readings.

“I have been to these events before and really enjoy them,” she said. “The first time I came, it was a group of all New York-based authors, including a man who wrote about being the son of immigrants. After hearing that, I decided I really liked that atmosphere and hearing the authors.”

The audience participates in each of the readings by offering affirmations and support to the readers. Oftentimes, when a line of poetry resonates with the audience, they snap their fingers instead of clapping.

“The real gain in the actual recitation of the poem is for the audience who might see a part of themselves in the work, and it might augment their experience,” Shanahan said. “For the writer, the gain is in networking and meeting up with other writers and people who might be interested in your work.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 25, 2013 print edition. Bailey Evans is a staff writer. Email her at features@nyunews.com

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