David Boeving reviews EMU Creative Writing Department’s Capstone reading

EMU student David Boeving reviews the EMU Creative Writing Department’s Capstone reading that took place earlier this month:

Capstone. Capstone? What is a capstone? According to the Microsoft Works Word Processor’s Dictionary, a capstone is a “top stone: a stone used at the top of a wall or another structure,” and, a “high point: something considered the highest achievement or most important action in a series of actions.” Cap: to “cover something” or, to “surpass something” or, to “complete something.”

On December 8th at the EMU Student Center, Eastern Michigan University’s Creative Writing department hosted “Capstone,” which was essentially a night of readings by graduating seniors from the department, as well as minors too. It was the culmination of four years of work for three individuals, each of which whom approached writing in a wholly different manner from the others. The first reader, Adam (whose last name I must have missed) read poetry from a Zene he composed. The second reader of the evening, Tim Mies, displayed a video that he had created including songs which he composed as part of the Creative Writing undergraduate program. The final reader of the night, Kristen (whose last name I again missed) read from a short story she had written. All together, they were a great completion to not only a semester of great readings, but also a great all around semester for EMU’s Creative Writing department.

Adam’s first poem which he read was titled, “Slackers Rhythm.” The work itself seemed to be very much reminiscent of a certain poem by Dr. Suess or Shell Silverstein perhaps, where a young child tries to convince one of his parental unit members to not make him go to school. From the begging the work seemed very playful, but quickly turned to more serious excuses, such as saving JFK or saving the stock market. Thus the work then seemed to remind me of the song ‘Handlebars’ by Flobots as it also starts off very playful but takes a serious turn towards political issues as the work continues. This work that started the night, as well as Adam’s reading was intense and funny, and well very well performed.

Next to read was Tim Mies who seems to be more of a songwriter. The entirety of his performance consisted of a section of a film he made, containing songs that he wrote as part of the Creative Writing department. The video itself was shot on an older camcorder, thus giving the entire visual and audio display a retro-esque feeling. Mies’ music matched this feeling perfectly. It all seemed to be near-minimalist and very much soothing at points, providing the video, which consisted of shots taken by him and his family at a cottage they own on a lake in northern Indiana with mostly feelings of warmth. The lyrics about his songs augmented the aforesaid feelings with images such as, “ice cube sympathy” which, along with the connection between the past and the present, connected something of warmth with a solid and grounded image of something that may have occurred in the writer’s past, as he looks back at it from the present.

Lastly, Kristen read from a short story based around a boy’s death an d a series of mysterious phone calls. The story reminded me of Franz Kafka as, a most crucial point of the story, the contents of the actual message left from the dead boy to his family, were not revealed. Like the transformed body of the main character in “The Metamorphosis,” the contents of a message around which a story is based, are pushed to the background. Before reading, Kristen relayed the idea to the audience that the story very much reflected her feelings as a graduating senior. This point seems to be more so touched upon by the end of the story when the lead character again receives a message expressing gratitude, but this time after the boy is already dead. This gratitude of the boy in the story seems to then be very much connected with that of Kristen, as she has completed her time at EMU.

This open-ended story, raising the question of where the final text came from, seems to also reflect the current perception of the future for all three graduating students. What comes next? Hopes of something good seem promising considering the quality of work that each graduating student exhibited. This reading as an entirety also seemed to reflect the general condition of Creative Writing at Eastern Michigan University. With the addition of a brilliant new professor, Rob Halpern, to the already strong and established department, one can only assume that the level of greatness already present about the program will continue to rise and more great Capstone projects will lead to more promising writers about the professional world.