Faculty Pub Night with Sarah Maclay: What You Missed

Veronica UrubioToday’s post was written by library student ambassador Veronica Urubio. Veronica is a first-year undeclared student with interest in psychology, creative writing, and the fine arts. She was born and raised in the suburbs of Downey, California, and happily works within one of the library’s departments. Currently, she is working on two book series and a graphic novel in her free time when she isn’t studying.

It is to be said that poetry brings awareness to the inner thoughts, fears, flaws, and dreams of its creator: something miraculously genuine and raw.

Showcased on the third floor of William H. Hannon Library, a published collection of poems were read aloud along with the added readings from students whose poetry was spotlighted alongside, creating a distinct blend of life-related verses and stanzas. Together, stylized and systematic, the poems came to life in a cacophony of movement; the diversity complemented one another in a manner of which is held stable through the themes of community, collaboration, and naturalistic-based hopes and fears.

The William H. Hannon Library’s final installment of Faculty Pub Night brought renowned poet and professor Sarah Maclay to give voice and emphasis on collaborative effort Angle of Reflection – an anthology of poems galore from ten individual writers whose eco-poetry pieces collide and conspire in the wake of a changing world. Joining Sarah Maclay were not only the poets whose works are featured in the anthology, but previous students who, too, stood to face the eager crowd behind the podium.

Upon entering the soon-to-be space, a soft thrum of life seemed to double in presence with each individual to walk through the doors. Friends and fellow poets alike enter the space with smiles and faces filled with a pleasant contentedness. Some were current students of Sarah Maclay’s while others were previous students who took part in an eco-poetry class of hers last fall semester who were invited to share their pieces. Laughter trounced the room, soft light filtering through the windows as some stood and stirred, the subtle gazes of the others swept the room conspicuously for an open seat.

A sensation of warmth emanated throughout the space – a familiarity one can only place on the remembrance of some nostalgic shard of serenely sweet memories. The event had yet to begin yet a feeling of peace seemed to fill my being as I observed the melody of voices and gentle words, as if a decibel any higher would disturb the magic of the room. As noise and laughter increased, so did the volume, but I found that the softness of the room – the bated breath before the swan dive off the deep end – kept its integrity.

Then it began.

An emphasis on the changing world was brought to the forefront by Eric Strauss, biology professor and opening speaker for the event, as he proposed to those gathered what a biologist was doing there out of his element with the hopes of convincing the aforementioned crowd that he didn’t stumble into the wrong room.

Urban ecology. Sustainability. Restorative justice. Resilience. Connection. Transition. Community.

These were some of the words that stood out, making an impression on the crowd that was admitted through the nodding of heads and resolute, grim expressions of the truth unfurled: the responsibility of the world’s upkeep was at stake, and it was up to the scientist and artist to create an awareness in order to enact change.

“I never met anyone who fell in love with science because of a graph,” he had remarked, which garnered laughter and head nods. “Word, vision, sound, dance, and however you view the world, we connect through these and so much more”.

While humanity has a duty to the world, there was also a duty to do so creatively, acting on our own thoughts and free-will. This is where poetry and the arts come in.

Sarah Maclay came to the podium and offered an introduction of herself, her colleagues, and past students, delving into her previous works, smiling knowingly and with a fizzling excitement that I couldn’t help but smile at. She introduced the first reader, a previous student.

Ode-like ecstasies filtered through the mouths of poets – well-versed and published, new and promising – that stood out to me personally that were named “Foxglove Practice” by Amanda – a student at Loyola Marymount University whose poem took on the personification and perspective of a flower –, “Acoustic Rain” by Jeanette Clough – one of the ten poets whose work was featured alongside Sarah Maclay’s that she introduced by claiming that “it wouldn’t involve travel, except imaginary” –, and “Another Ocean Poem” by Paul Lieber – another of Sarah Maclay’s fellow poets whose work showcased in Angle of Reflection that, when I closed my eyes to let its imagery take hold, became more of an all-encompassing experience than words being read from a page.

The diversity of poems that overflowed and spilled over the room arrived in a variety of voices and tones, of different stories and livelihoods lived thoroughly.

Emphases and accentuations.

Softened and emboldened.

Declarative and well-informed.

Some poems are said to be patterned – the haiku comes to mind for me –, much similar to the people speaking them to life, I noticed as the design imprinted from student poet, to published poet, and so on and so forth.

Poetry reminds one what you can do with words, the impressions they leave, and the associations they can make one ponder on. Sarah Maclay’s Faculty Pub Night became not only a celebration of the published work and her success, but a celebration of her colleagues and friends, of the Earth and all its wonders and speculations and concerns – and we had the honor to bask in them.

This eighth installment of Faculty Pub Night brought together an audience and transformed them into a community. The call to action and to change to match the actively changing world was deafening yet comforting. Comforting in the sense that there, despite the hardships and struggle the oceans and earth have endured, the priority of reaching out and taking hands to prevent such a catastrophe from taking place – the lengths that science has gone to mending and rehabilitating paired with the rise of awareness and battle cry to not give in just yet through the arts – are not in vain. Especially not in the William H. Hannon Library’s Von der Ahe Suite. The sixty gathered slowly come to a wake from a trance of this flickering hope turned brighter to move about, shuffling towards and among the lull of conversation and gentle laughter – pulled by the urge to speak on what had been spoken with those who had bared witnessed a similar miracle.

“This was like a magical experience”, spoke a passerby to their companion as they strolled towards the open bar. I couldn’t help but agree. Words are a powerful tool that can make you not only consider, but feel. If you take the time out to listen.

Change will always be a part of life – the push and pull – that humanity will have to face together either in a testament to a shared belief that change must be implemented or in an undesired fall from grace. But, in that knowledge, there is a surviving hope that, together, we will overcome the barrier through what creative endeavors to raising awareness and pursuing advancements through knowledge will grant us. Will grant the world of which we stand and thrive on.

The message broadcasted: if we all hold hands, as we had done in the closing of the event with persuasion from the closing speaker, together in community, collaboration, and hope can bring about the tidal wave of rebirth and purpose. I think if we did that more often, not just seeing the similarities across the span of distinct cultures, but in recognizing and accepting our differences in order to create something truly harmonious, hope had never been lost.

Hope will never be lost.

Thank you, Veronica, for sharing your perspective with us! If you are a student interested in being an event correspondent at a library event, contact John Jackson, Head of Outreach and Communications for the William H. Hannon Library.