Amy Oleynik reviews Capstone Showcase

EMU student Amy Oleynik reviews the recent undergraduate Creative Writing Capstone showcase:

To the Beginning Creative Writer: The Capstone from a Reader’s Perspective

Capstone Reading, April 12th 2012

It’s been four vigorous years and it all comes down to one night. The graduating seniors of the Creative Writing program all come together to recite for you portions of their Capstone Project. This project is one they have been personally working on for the majority of their last semester, a project that is meant to reflect what they’ve acquired, gained and learned throughout their time in the program. I was one of these readers and I’d like to share with you my thoughts on the experience.

There were ten seniors lined up to present their works. With only five minutes for each performance, choosing your material to present was a nerve-wracking task. This was my first real reading. Of course I had presented pieces in class before, but I never was truly nervous of my audience’s reactions. Usually when given a time, it seems so long and you have to stretch your words to fill the space before you can wipe your brow and scuttle off stage. But in this moment, five minutes were barely a breath. What could I read that would sufficiently show my dedication and message? Luckily for me, I had written both short poetry and prose pieces. I was able to present a bit of each, though practicing beforehand made me even shakier.

As I sat in my room reciting to my houseplants, I realized each reading was completely different. I never emphasized the same words, I tried a different tone of voice or speed.  I’m not one for stage fright, but this performance meant more to me than others prior. This was the showcase of my hard spent time and ideas. I wanted to make it count.

My nerves were erased as I entered the Student Art Gallery. The space itself reflected what EMU is about, what we were a part of. Inventive, daring and ever varied. Our showcase was dynamic and multi-faceted. It revealed everything the Creative Writing program promoted and taught us, but it showed how we as individuals give life to the program.

Kylie read an excerpt from her mysterious and fantastical fiction piece. Jonah performed a series of poems that broke the fourth wall and reached out into the audience, asking you to inflect about where you call home. Elizabeth combined film making, appropriated music and narrative in a short film piece. Joseph performed a list poem interwoven with dialogue. David Chad used incredible word play and rhyme scheme to bring us a hilarious commentary on community and communication. Noah delivered a scene about Phoenix, asking us to take a journey through memory to find a final destination. Ian brought us a multi-genre approach in his video about the difficulties of the writing process, featuring many of the other Creative Writing students. Brenna led us through a complex fictional interview with the accompaniment of Elizabeth. And I shared with you moments of my grappling with today’s ideas of feminism.

From this performance alone showed what our program is all about. Collaboration, diverse genres, different backgrounds, attitudes and voices. We each brought something unique to share and invite you to step up to the podium when you are ready. There is a spot here for you.

Amy Oleynik reviews Dodie Bellamy

Student Amy Oleynik reviews Dodie Bellamy’s BathHouse Reading from earlier this month:

Dodie Bellamy: Her reading of “Whistle While You Dixie” on February 7, 2012

I came to realize in a short amount of words that Dodie sounds like the friend you think you have, the one who says everything too honestly and with too much raw energy, with a potential to go any which way. The one you meet and you’re instantly insulted, which is why you like her so much. Comfortable, yet edgy enough that you don’t sit too close. The type of friend you wouldn’t take home to your parents for Sunday-Monday-AnyDay dinner. In fact, you can’t even mention her lest they ask you, “Oh, what does she write?” or “How did you meet?” which would end up in unsavory stories or explanations you find comical, but obviously those old fogies wouldn’t budge a lip. You’d be reduced to giving her only as a name or at least what she looks like. But questions can still ensue so you bottle her up inside. Yet ever persistently, Dodie peeks out of your conversations and you still trample over yourself to not include her in every word. Either my subconscious is lacking in strength or Dodie’s mark has extreme gusto.

The correct answer is obviously.

Dodie became the song in my head, the one you realize when it’s too late and you’ve been subconsciously at it and now conscious of it, heated and irritated to the point of obsession.

Whistle. Obsession.

He whistled. Habit.

The way whistle looks like thistle and is seen as such in the realm of sounds. Sharp. Quick and usually you want to use your foot to blot out its life, with haste. One mouth pucker and my eyebrows are erect. One tick on my counter from the man with a mustache. And she never mentioned the dwarves, whom I’m sure she’d have many a small penis joke lined up, buried waiting like a jack-in-the-box spring trap. Gasp. Oh ha ha. They do whistle. That’s seven instances left untouched, dripping with potential, right along with the use of the word “ho”. Or how they mine for diamonds and immaculately cut precious stones which they leave (where?) and come home to live in hospitable squalor, none of them daring to build another house. And I’m back to the whistling.

Tick two.

The word most associated with Dodie was uncomfortable, which I did not gain from the reading. If anything, Dodie forced me to reflect on myself, pulling me into my childhood days of Snow White being innocent and talented. She was the woodland creature whispering goddess. The scariest part being the lightning storm instead of the obsessed red mouthed queen asking for Snow White’s heart. (My Creative Writing senses tell me to delve a little deeper into the metaphor for some complexes, but really, I just think she wanted her dead.) Moving from essay to narrative, I still was compelled to feel for the characters meaning I connected with her fear and want of the boy on the far bed. What does that mean! My inner child panics. What happened in my life that I now can relate to Dodie? She is hilariously crude in her sentiments. Have I become like that? More personal reflection and it’s only been an hour. Focus on the peaches and try to remember to make a cobbler when you get the chance. Desserts, yes! Movies, innocent movies! Don’t think! Just watch! Sit, watch, cut up peaches on your couch! The uncomfortable self is found in Dodie’s aftermath.