On March 26, the Department of English, Fine Arts, and Humanities, hosted a public reading event. The event took place in the Daniel A. Canon Memorial Library, where two new chapbooks published by Green Rabbit Press were showcased. The chapbooks were written by Gianna Russo and Brooke King.
The name of the event, “Literary Salon,” was given by Brent Short, the Director of Library Services. The name refers to the warmth that was desired to be given to the audience and the readers. Following the reading, a reception was available to all who attended the event.
Green Rabbit Press is a publishing branch started by the Department of English, Fine Arts, and Humanities. Its purpose is to promote the creative work of Saint Leo University’s community members through various methods such as writing contests.
Dr. Wilt opened the event with a performance of Bob Dylan’s song “Only a Hobo.”
Brooke King, an adjunct English Professor at the University and former Saint Leo University graduate, was then introduced by Dr. Wilt. Soon to be receiving a Master of Fine Arts from Sierra Nevada College, King read two poems from her chapbook, which was entitled “Love in the Shape of a Warzone,” as well as some of her other poems from Prairie Schooner, an online publication. As an Iraq War veteran, her poems were highly influenced by the grievous nature of the battlefield.
“The reason why I go first is because all of my poems are about war and my experience in war. They’re going to be a bit graphic,” said King before reading her poetry.
King’s first reading was titled “Insha’Allah” – meaning God Willing in Arabic. The visceral poem explores a soldier’s desire to die like one of her comrades in war so that she can honorably leave a place that she wholeheartedly considers hell. King’s other poems followed closely to the tone established by the first – her second poem, “Number Five,” recounts the rape of one of her friends during the war. Her final poem was called “Redeployment Packing Checklist.” In this poem, all of the impact from the experiences, traumas, lost comrades, injuries, and psychological changes that come with war are forced to be brought home with a reluctant soldier; unable to be left behind, these feelings must stay with the solider for the rest of her life.
After King’s reading, Gianna Russo, Instructor of English, stood up to read her poetry. However, revealing that she was heavily moved by King’s work, Russo had to recompose herself before she could begin.
“I just want to say that I’m in total awe of you, Brooke, and I’m so honored to be ushering in a new generation of writers and of military writers. It was phenomenal,” said Russo to King.
Russo read from her chapbook, “Companion of Joy.” This collection of poetry included Ekphrastic Writing – poetry which takes inspiration from photographs or paintings and challenges the writer to create a scene, story, or background using details in the artwork. Russo’s reading featured five poems based on five different paintings by Johan Vermeer. The poems were inspired by some of Russo’s teaching experiences.
“It came out of an assignment that I did with students when I was [teaching] at Blake High School, which was to have students look at artwork and then write about it,” said Russo.
Primarily focusing on women, each of the poems illustrate highly vivid scenes, such as Russo’s first poem, “How to Measure Beauty.” Based on the painting “Girl with a Red Hat,” this poem explores a woman’s curiosity about whether her beauty should be considered mainly through her clothing or through her natural features, such as her lips.
The poetry showcased during the event was powerful, relevant, and highly artistic.