Students sporting crisp blazers and flowy dresses entertained friends, mentors, and literary lovers with their spoken word for the return of a celebration of poetic excellence.
Undergraduate students from a range of universities in the Greater Boston area took the stage in the Murray Room on Tuesday for the annual Greater Boston Intercollegiate Undergraduate Poetry Festival.
The event, which began in 1987, rotated locations at different Boston campuses such as Harvard University and the University of Massachusetts Boston until 2001, when the event took a brief hiatus. Boston College revived the event in 2006, and, since then, BC has hosted the event on its campus.
This year, Poetry Days, the BC Arts Council, and The Institute for the Liberal Arts at BC sponsored the event.
Suzanne Matson, a professor of English at BC and the organizer of the event, opened the evening’s proceedings with warm remarks, stating her gratitude for the efforts of the poets, their supporters, and the event sponsors. The professors who selected the students to represent their universities also sat in the audience for the event.
“We are a slightly smaller group of schools this year, but you would not know it by looking out at the audience members,” Matson said. “I’m just so pleased to see such a great turnout for all the student poets who have brought, obviously, not only mentors, but friends and family.”
The festival made an in-person return this year after being canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19 and being held virtually in 2021, so Matson also expressed her excitement for the return of the event in its traditional form.
Following Matson’s introduction of the event, this year’s keynote speaker, Daniel Johnson, a poet and non-profit director, immersed the crowd in his creative lyric essay titled “Blue as Blue and Blue as This.” He utilized projected images and artwork to deepen the crowd’s immersion into his spoken-word performance.
“I’d like to dedicate [the essay] to each of you, the wordsmiths of the 2022 Intercollegiate Poetry Conference,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s essay took the form of abecedarian, which is arranged alphabetically, and each line starts with a different letter. Each letter introduced a new, unpredictable topic. From providing advice for new poets, explaining how he was kicked out of his high school’s National Honor Society, detailing his mother’s psychotic break, and foreshadowing the topics of his upcoming works, Johnson provided the audience with a moving and entertaining experience.
Johnson then passed the spotlight on to the first student poet from the Berklee College of Music. Each student introduced him or herself and then read between one and three works.
Gracie Meijer, MCAS ’23, the second speaker and the student selected from BC, shared three poems with the crowd. Following each reading, the crowd clapped as the microphone was passed off to the next poet.
Students shared poems on topics ranging from fond childhood memories to commentary on modern-day racism.
At the end of the readings, Matson invited all of the attendees to stay afterward for refreshments and desserts. The poets mingled afterwards, complimenting each other’s work and trading contacts, as family members and friends congratulated the poets.
Featured Image by Yukti Sajnani / for The Heights