VOX Hosts Poetry Workshop Series

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On Friday Sept. 13, one might expect Jason Voorhees to pop up with a machete, or perhaps just for a run of terribly unlucky events to unfold. Fortunately, neither occurred.

The late-summer day did see an absolute hustle-bustle on campus as Students’ Representative Council members and volunteers prepared for the tented first class bash event on the quad.

The inflatable Moose-Light beer-can bounced in the cold early-September wind under overcast skies, waiting patiently as the afternoon wore on. Meanwhile, beyond the fenced-in party-zone, Jenna Albert was busy preparing for a far less inebriated event: the first ever VOX poetry session.

“VOX is UNB Saint John’s art annual magazine; it’s a collection of poetry, short fiction, photography and fine arts,” explains Albert, the acting editor, “So we have everything from paintings to sketches, prose to student poetry and it is all student work and we publish it in a nice little annual.

“In past years, a lot of the submissions were collected from creative writing classes; this year there’s no creative writing course being offered,” says Albert, “so one of the options VOX created on our own accord was the VOX sessions and that’s a means for people to continue writing.”

Hazen Hall was ghostly quiet at 4:30 p.m. as final measures were taken to ensure the proper poetic atmosphere. Pitchers of water for tea and the like, provided by Chartwells’ Darlene Erb, sat sweating in the corner as a selection of indie-folk-pop played softly. This was about the time student poets entered the room.

Sitting around the big table in HH127, suddenly it was as if a reunion was underway. Dr. Anne Compton’s creative writing class from autumn 2012 walked in smiling one after another, surprised to see each other and excited for the workshop to begin. Comfortable with the format and anticipating the arrival of their old professor (who happened to be the guest poet for the first event) the Comptoneer’s reminisced and bided their time telling summer stories. Unfortunately, as the night progressed and poems began getting critiqued, some felt out of the loop as newcomers to both writing poetry and public critique.

“I was initially really nervous to join the poetry clique that is Anne Compton’s ex writing class,” says second year arts student Kailey Hallett, “It was a relief to find that the ‘newbies’’ poems generated excitement among the experienced, but I still felt that the new poets’ voices weren’t really heard in the discussions. I enjoyed the structure of the evening but would have appreciated if the poets got more of a chance to speak for themselves about their own work. Anne was very insightful as the guest poet, offering helpful criticisms without discouraging [the poets].”

Compton went through every submittal, first having the poets read their own work, then having the group of amateur poets critique and ask the poet questions. Finally, Compton gave her expert criticism and handed a marked-up version of the poem back to the individual on trial.

After 10 poems and three hours, the sessions rolled to a close. Blake Ferris, both the former editor of VOX and former Comptoneer, had this to say about the evening: “I think the VOX Sessions are a great example of students taking initiative where the university is failing,” says Ferris, “I have the utmost faith in Jenna’s ability to deliver interesting and insightful workshops to our students.”

The next submittal date for VOX sessions will be Monday, Sept. 23. Dr. Sandra Bell will be acting as the guest poet for the following session on Friday, Sept. 27.
For more information on VOX visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/Vox.UNBSJ/ or contact Jenna Albert at jenna.lyn@unb.ca