On Thursday evening, the University of Connecticut hosted the Connecticut Poetry Circuit, an organization dedicated to uplifting outstanding poets. Such poets are selected by a panel of esteemed judges across colleges in the state and read their most exemplary poetic pieces. This year, student poets Marielena Cartagena, Gabrielle Colangelo, Joelle Gray, Phillip Michel and Mia Yanosy participated in the readings.
“UConn students were invited to submit poems to the Creative Writing Program here, and we selected UConn senior Mia Yanosy, whose work we nominated,” V. Penelope Pelizzon, an English professor as well as the Interim Director of Creative Writing at the university, said about the organization’s nominative process.
The event began with the works of Marielena Cartagena of Manchester Community College. Marked by raw viscera and emotional paroxysm, the textual content of Cartagena’s selected pieces was as haunting as her vocal reading was peaceful.
Her piece, “You’re So” was emblematic of Romanticism as the poem’s speaker struggles to reconcile their peers’ assessment of their bravery with their actual trepidation: “What is this bravery if not just an exaggeration of survival? / Bravery that began as a yellow germination of something precious I left behind to preserve in a glass bottle / I want to break it now, feed the glass to feverish wrists, and return my roots to the soundless air, to branch around courage like nerves ending / Because what is bravery but a nerve? / To remain visibly broken, the strength to remain tender after violence.”
Gabriella Colangelo, a student at Yale University, read eight poems in total. Her work was multifaceted and narratorial, demonstrating heightened experimentation with form with her poems ranging all across the spectrum in length. The narrative in “Inventory,” explicitly inspired by Colangelo’s experiences from her Catholic environment and consequent lapse from Catholicism, follows the plot of a speaker struggling with religious guilt that both represses and criticizes her rational expression.
“Once a taxi driver told me he’s read the Bible 30 times within the past two years / Once a month, plus more during Lent / He said it would eventually answer every possible question / It seemed like a lot to ask of a book,” Colangelo read.
With a sum of four poems, Joelle Gray’s pieces were emotionally expressive and sincere in their tenderness. A Quinnipiac University student, Gray read with a warm timbre that made even her work’s darker, stormier elements light and airy. Written from her perspective following her father’s death last December, Gray’s memorializing poem “My Father’s Ghost” hit the night’s fever pitch of emotion and was sure to draw a misty eye. She recounted not only her grief, but also the relationship between her and her father during his lifetime, which, like all parent-child relationships, was subject to both reciprocal love and arduous conflict.
“I want to sit around my grandmother’s kitchen table, altogether with our family, earthly and not / And tell him stories of everything I’ve done since he was gone … ” Gray read, with a smile blooming on her face. “And someday, when I meet my father’s ghost, I will stare into his stunning blue eyes and he will smile at me / We won’t have to say anything at all, but we will say it all anyway, and he will tell me, ‘I’m so glad you’re home.’”
Hailing from Quinebaug Community College, Phillip Michel read his five poems next. His verifiable background in performance from working at his local radio station as well as his community theater was not lost on his reading, which was distinguishable in its dramatic theatricality and vocal prowess. Inspired by jazz, Michel’s stream-of-consciousness piece “Hyperconsciousness” ushered in the majority of the evening’s thrills, featuring literary techniques such as internal alliteration and rhyme to conduct a symphony using only words:
“Sick of controversy in response to inclusion / Sick of misogyny in movies and music / Sick of Muslims being monsterized / Trans friends ostracized / Bigots being energized / Supremacists mobilized / Colored cultures capitalized / Sick of you pimping us out,” Michel vigorously spoke.
The event culminated with the poems of Mia Yanosy from the University of Connecticut. More transitory in length, Yanosy’s poems aimed to succinctly illustrate domesticity in family and friends with a bucolic calmness, even in the midst of adolescent friction. Yanosy’s “Childhood of My Mother’s Side” focused on the complexities and closeness of female friendship tested by the age differences between them.
Yanosy recited, “So I told her she was beautiful / And by the fence, she touched my face / ‘You are beautiful, too.’ / And it was one of the 22 days we were both 14.”
In their readings, all of the young poets combined encompassed a wide sweeping scale of emotions, from desolation, questioning, grief, rage and analysis, with no stone left unturned in terms of form, prosody and textual content. For more news on the Connecticut Poetry Circuit, follow their website here.