Third Poetry Fest at Smith

Zane Razzao '15Assistant Arts Editor 

The 11th annual Five College Student Poetry Fest took place last Thursday March 28 in the Neilson Browsing Room at Smith. The annual poetry event features two student poets from each of the colleges in the Five College Consortium. The poets who presented their work this year were selected to participate in the poetry fest by faculty and students at their home campuses. Poetry Fest is sponsored by the Poetry Center at Smith College, the writing programs of the five colleges and the Five College Consortium.

The first Poetry Fest took place in 2003. Event organizers hoped to establish a new poetry event that would provide student poets with a venue to share their work. Each year, Poetry Fest rotates between the five colleges; Thursday’s event marked the third time Poetry Fest has taken place at Smith.

Poet and translator Ellen Doré Watson, director of the Poetry Center at Smith, and Lorna Peterson, executive director of Five Colleges, Inc., were crucial to the creation of the event, with the help of the Five College faculty.

“The English chairs and creative writing faculty on the five campuses got together last year to talk about the popularity of their creative writing courses and the talent of their students,” said Peterson in an interview with Mount Holyoke’s College Street Journal. “It seemed like a good idea to give students an opportunity to read their poems to each other and to their teachers.”

The participants this year were Lauren Abbate and Anthea Karanasos-Hubanks (Mount Holyoke College), Diana Babineau and Peter Smith (Amherst College), Kat Black ’13 and Hannah Young ’15 (Smith College), Omnia Hamdan and Anna Meister (Hampshire College) and Kristen Mosher and Aidan Stone (UMass Amherst). They each read several of their poems.

The majority of the poetry was based on the poet’s personal experiences. Stone mentioned his background in Irish step dancing before reading his poem “Jig,” which he called “a light little poem about Irish dance.” Hamdan’s poem, “Working Hands,” recalled the story of her father’s childhood occupation in Atbara, Sudan, while baking Sudanese biscotti with her aunt in the winter of 2008. The poem juxtaposed the baking of the bread with the violence of the story.

Hubanks submitted a combination of her newer and older poems, most of which came together for her while attending the Colgate Writers Conference at Colgate University, which she has attended over the past few summers.

“I love meeting other writers. That’s what fuels my writing and that’s where I first began to believe I could learn to write poems that others might like to read,” said Hubanks.   

According to Babineau, each student poet brought something unique to the event. “We are such a diverse group, and the Poetry Fest was an excellent event that brought us all together through our shared love for poetry,” she said. Meister, added, “There was a really wide range of poems and voices present. I think the Poetry Fest is a chance to make connections outside of your home campus. It felt good to have my work and the work of other poets recognized and celebrated.”

First time audience member Sarah McDonald ’15 shared her reflections after the event. “I didn’t even know about Poetry Fest until tonight! It’s really great that it exists, because I sometimes feel like there aren’t that many venues for students to present their own artwork,” McDonald said.

She also noted her appreciation for the diversity of the event.

“One poet read his poem in a Southern accent, one poet was talking about Sudan – it was all really different and a great mix of different techniques. And that it’s a Five College event is great, too, because it gives us a chance to see what the student artists on other campuses are doing, which I think is really important.”