Elephant Rock Books hosted this month’s Roar Reading Series in Barnes and Noble Monday, marking the 15th year of the series. The group of people which came to the series, either to watch or participate, appeared familiar with each other, thus indicating a regular crowd. This was made even clearer by the way they called new people “roar virgins.” It was almost like a club.
Of these “roar virgins” was Joyce Figueroa, a fourth-semester English and communications major from Eastern Connecticut State University.
“I came to experience new live readings and to see people I’ve known before perform live,” Figueroa said.
Jotham Burrello, a publisher from Elephant Rock Books, introduced the first reader, Sebastian Stockman, an associate teaching professor from Northeastern University. Stockman read a section from the memoir he’s been working on. Using a tour guide style of writing, Stockman was able to illustrate his hometown and the way to get there. Through the use of imagery and humor, he was able to paint a picture of the small-town life of Alma, Missouri. The people he populated Alma with were all unique, demonstrating how close-knit the inhabitants were and how they impressed themselves on Stockman throughout his life there. Anecdotes were strung across every corner of the town, allowing it to thrum with a sense of history and joy that plain description wouldn’t have been able to evoke. With an undertone of nostalgia, the memoir takes listeners (and one day readers) into the town and quietly forces them to grow attached and engaged.
“So finish the book, Sebastian,” Burrello said after Stockman finished, to the laughter of the crowd.
The next writer, Amanda Bloom, read a story she wrote from the perspective of a female swimmer who held a 60-year-long relationship with Fred, a long-distance runner. The story begins when the two athletes are still in highschool, and stretches gradually across their lives together. The two support eachother, originally growing close on their high school’s running track. Bloom guides the audience through the pair’s relationship as it develops from friends to lovers to married spouses to parents. Pausing to touch on underlying problems such as cheating and issues in bed, Bloom is able to add a realistic touch to the lifetime the couple shared together. The audience was able to feel the narrator’s sorrow and worries as it was finally revealed that Fred had cancer and their time together would be ending soon.
Unlike Stockman and Bloom, Edmond Chibeau read some of his poems rather than prose.
“You learn how to write poetry by listening to your own body, however, I had several great poetry teachers,” Chibeau said. “One was my high school teacher Marcella Whalen, who was also—her first year teaching she was James Baldwin’s teacher and her last year teaching she was my teacher in dear old Clinton High School.”
Chibeau spoke each line with a clear rhythm, enunciating important words to grab the audience’s attention. His poems tended to lean toward a combination of morality, insight and extended metaphor. Chibeau interspersed humorous lines among the more serious and moving parts of his poems. His last few poems required three people to read them out loud.
“Because I’m a performance writer, I often hear voices in my head, and sometimes when I’m writing either a poem or a play, it sounds like a certain number of voices to me,” Chibeau said.
The different readers weren’t conversational, rather their voices were combined and layered to add more emphasis on the message Chibeau was trying to carry across. At times, this added a sort of story-teller aspect to the poems, but depending on how they spoke, it also felt overwhelming, like the audience was hearing the conflicting inner thoughts of one man.
“It was very interesting to see three different people reading it, and the, kind of, word play that they had going and the echoing,” Figueroa said. “It was really interesting and unique to see live, so that was pretty interesting.”
The next meeting of the Roar Reading Series will be taking place on March 4 at 7 p.m. in Barnes and Noble. All writers and fans of literature are welcome.
“I think any kind of writing you do contributes to any other kind of writing that you may do later,” Chibeau said. “So poetry, journalism, scholarly writing or, in my case, performance writing all contributes to anything else we might write, even an interoffice memo we might write later on in our life.”
Rebecca Maher is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.