Poetry Night at The Penny

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Breane McCormick at the microphone in front of that purple door in The Penny that apparently connects to the yoga studio next door and not Narnia. Disappointing. Hannah Eiserman

The ESA holds an intimate, collaborative (and their first-ever) poetry night

On October 13, a delightfully dreary night straight out of the works of Edgar Allen Poe, a group of students gathered in The Penny University Bookstore for a Poetry Night, hosted by the University’s English Students Association (ESA). ESA co-presidents Breane McCormick and Emily Lints have wanted to host a poetry night since they came into their positions, but lockdown and social gathering rules prevented them from doing so.

This time, “[a]fter booking the event[,] we made sure the COVID-19 restrictions would allow us to host it without problem,” McCormick says. New rules regarding proof of vaccination for public events and a small cohort of poets meant that we were able to gather safely for the evening. McCormick said the copresidents “knew of” the bookstore, and “thought it would be a perfect fit for [their] poetry night.” Like other ESA events, the Poetry Night was promoted by the Department of English to students and to the rest of campus on the ESA’s social media.

McCormick, the chairperson of the evening, began by opening the floor to anyone who had come prepared with poems to read. Students Laura Gillis, Sydney McWilliams, and Daniel Kemp took the stage one by one to read a couple of their pieces. Gillis kicked us off with two poems, one fittingly entitled “Bookstore Guy”; McWilliams recited two poems from memory, which suitably impressed the gathering; and Kemp, who moved here from South Africa this year, read us the first and second poems he wrote in Canada.

McCormick then led the group in composing some new pieces based on writing prompts. The first set of prompts were about specific subjects, including “a package you weren’t expecting,” “an abandoned house,” and “how it feels when you don’t belong.” Even the owner and operator of The Penny University, Annabel Townsend, joined in on the writing and reading with a poem on the subject of being “homesick.” She presented a lovely interpretation of the theme as what staying “home sick” means to us as we cope with wave after wave of the pandemic.

After everyone had a chance to read their work aloud, McCormick offered a second round of prompts. This time, we were given a slip with four words and the task to construct a poem using each one. Some prompts were “compromise, wild, pages, and clock” and “sunflowers, camera, charity, and muddy.” Once we had all read again, we decided it would be a fun exercise to construct a collaborative, communal poem.

The words we were given were “fix, broken, rebellious, and pride.” Our composition was entitled “a murder,” given our subject of crows and war (a fun fact: a group of crows is called a murder!). Everyone had a role in deciding the content of the poem, but I got the fun editorial task of assigning phrasing and line breaks!

Our group-composed, truly wacky poem about a crow war.

I chose to style our work with phrasing marks instead of line breaks for two reasons: one being space on the physical page, and the other to cluster the threads of ideas accordingly. Plus, isn’t it just so aesthetically pleasing? Feel free to construct your own poems with the prompts we used: there should be something for every writer to work with. And maybe you can even bring your work to the next ESA Poetry Night!

McCormick notes that planning the event was lots of fun, and the ESA hopes to host another one this winter – hopefully with a workshop component! If you’re thinking you’d like to get involved with the next one, she also says they are open in terms of form and content. “We’re really just looking forward to hearing all types of poetry,” McCormick says, “whether it’s spoken word, free-verse, or a more structured type like a sonnet.”

Especially for us bookish, writerly people, getting out in this way can be really intimidating. But it’s important to remember that this is what your student groups are for! Groups like the ESA make it incredibly easy to connect with likeminded people and make some friends! Hitting the books is important, but a major part of the university experience is meeting people. McCormick encourages students “not to be intimidated to approach or even email campus groups.” She says that “all the groups are really welcoming to students who want to get involved and are probably looking for people to fill roles” as well.

Even if you’re not an English student, you’re still welcome at ESA events. And if you’re looking for something more specific to your own interests, our campus likely has a group for you! You can look them up on the URSU website Clubs and Societies page.[1]

If you want to check out what else the ESA has to offer, they are hosting a Game Night at The Lazy Owl on October 27 from 6:30 to 8:00. They are also hosting a Reading Retreat at Arlington Beach Camp from November 6 to 7. If you’re interested, McCormick says that registration for both of these events will be opening on their social media: @esa_regina. They can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


[1] https://www.ursu.ca/campus-life/clubs-and-societies/

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