Poet reads on historical identity

Contributing Writer
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On Thursday, Allegheny College hosted poet Shara McCallum, professor at Bucknell University and author of four books of poetry, in the Tippie Alumni Center for the year’s second installment of the Single Voice Reading Series.

This set of events allows members of the Allegheny community to meet acclaimed writers and to hear them read their work.

English major Erin Dakas, ’13, who introduced Carolyn Forche at the last event, said that the Single Voice Readings benefit students interested in poetry, since they allow greater contact with professional writers.

The Single Voice event gave students the opportunity to witness McCallum perform her poetry in front of a live audience.

“The Single Voice Readings are a great chance to get to know authors and to hear their work out loud,” said Dakas. “It especially lets students who read poetry take a step beyond the material.”

Before the Single Voice event, McCallum attended Professor Christopher Bakken’s Advanced Poetry Writing class to answer student questions about the process of writing.

Dakas said that she was excited to speak to McCallum during her class.

“When authors come to your class you really get a one-on-one opportunity to get to know them as a person and a writer,” said Dakas.

Originally from Jamaica, McCallum said that her poetry focuses on themes from her personal history.”

“I was profoundly influenced by Jamaica and my experience as an immigrant,” said McCallum.
“I often write about the emotion of being a part of two worlds.”

Motivated by her personal connection to McCallum’s poetry, Sasha Miller, ’13, introduced McCallum to the audience at the beginning of the Single Voice event.

“I’m from Jamaica too,” said Miller, “and for that reason I feel like I can really connect to her poetry.”

McCallum read poems from “This Strange Land” and a new poem that considersfigures from the Jamaican myth, “Nanny of the Maroons.”

When asked about her live reading, McCallum urged students to listen closely to poetry.

“Listening can be very important because it honors the history of poetry as a spoken art form,” said McCallum.
Sarah Durrer, ’14, studied McCallum’s “This Strange Land” before the event and listened to her recorded readings as a requirement for class.

Durrer said that students looked forward to hearing

McCallum read poetry aloud in her distinctive oral style, sometimes employing a Jamaican accent for added effect.

“I think that Shara McCallum is one of the most versatile writers we’ve heard during the Single Voice series,” said Durrer.

“Her readings are like going to a concert because she sings some lines of her poetry and uses different dialects.”
After the event, Eric Mueller, ’12, said he was especially affected by McCallum’s spoken word.

“What struck me most was the way she performed her poetry,” said Muller.

“She really brought her words to life. It was amazing.”