Graduate Student Writing Reading series gives students an opportunity to showcase their literary creations.
By Kiera O’Hara-Heinz
On Monday March 1, 2021, Saint Mary’s hosted a Graduate Student Reading, part of the school of creative writings weekly Graduate Student Reading series. The Graduate Student Reading series takes place every Monday evening at 6:00pm over zoom. The series features the works of different MFA Candidates every week. This week the reading featured the readings of four students from the Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Nonfiction programs.
One of the first readers of the night was Jenyth Gearhart-Utchen, a Poetry program student and the Poet Laureate of San Ramon. She was introduced by ‘22 graduate Stella Santa Maria who described Gearhart-Utchen’s poetry as “visual art.” Gearhart-Utchen read several poems that she had written over the past year, centered on a variety of themes and events, including quarantine and the Sonoma County wildfires that took place this summer. Most of her poems had a nature and outdoor themes with titles like “Waiting for Lady Banks Rose,” “Retaining Wall” and “Running After the Recycling Truck on New Years Shoes.” As a part of the SMC MFA program, she has experienced a dramatic shift in her writing and has found her writing getting shorter and more intense. Over the last year she has found inspiration in small details of the world around her.
“During the pandemic, I've decided to focus on the small, mundane, but magical and wonderful things I've never noticed before, rather than the larger, less controllable aspects of our lives,” Gearhart-Utchen said. “For instance, when my garage door wouldn't shut, I realized a sunbeam was hitting the safety sensor for about 5 minutes. That became a poem about "nature enticing artificial intelligence."
Gearhart-Utchen was followed by Fiction student Nick Golden, who read a humorous piece about an animated bong. Putting on a Pete Davidsonesque narrator voice, Golden entertained the whole zoom meeting with his story of a guy who spends all day getting stoned while working for the U.S. Government until his bong comes to life and urges him to get his life together.
Although the story is fiction there is still an element of truth to it. Golden based the story off of his own experience living in Florida and working for a Congressman after his graduation from Saint Mary’s in 2014. While in Florida, he found himself isolated with a tough time making friends because of the cultural difference of his California upbringing and “stoner personality” and his coworkers who “literally believed President Obama wasn't American, wanted more guns on the street, didn't understand various movements, and the voters there held some radical views.”
Golden describes his time in Florida as one of the bottom points of his life, and because of this, found himself unable to write about it from a nonfiction lens, inspired by surrealist shows like Wilfred and Man Seeking woman, he gave the bong in his story, “my own retrospective thoughts and criticisms of my past lonely self was a fun way to blend what happened when I was living there, while making it comedic to brush over the isolation and loneliness of the narrator.”
After graduation he hopes to continue in the writing world through continuing to write his memoir, write fiction short stories, and submitting fiction and nonfiction essays for publication. He acknowledges that it is rare for writers to be able to make a living only out of writing and wants to use his writing skills in the corporate world to find a job copyediting, content researching or in internal communications.
The night ended with the poetry of Poetry student Jacqueline Simon. Her first poem she read, titled “Atonement,” was about not fasting on Yom Kippur, intergenerational conflict, and the feeling of personal lacking. She read another poem about an experience with her husband's heart condition. She also read a collection of poetry called her crown sonnets that she began writing at the beginning of quarantine on March 19th 2020. She then finished the night by reading an excerpt from a longer poem of hers titled “Donkeys.”
Her writing inspiration comes from the world around her,“I would say that mostly my inspiration comes from the non-human world. But it's more than that. It is more like how our reactions and interactions with the non-human world define us. And highlight our responsibilities to the world and each other. Both the necessity and the intrinsic value inherent in these relationships.”
Ryan Ford '23,