tudents share poetry at event

The Daily Pennsylvanian
April 15, 1999

From a man with dark sunglasses who rolled his own cigarettes to a short girl who timidly approached the microphone, a diverse group of about 25 people gathered outdoors yesterday to share their love of poetry.

In honor of National Poetry Month, Kelly Writers House sponsored the first outdoor "Speakeasy," held on a small patch of green behind St. Mary's Church in Hamilton Village. Speakeasy, which is held every other Wednesday night, gives artists the opportunity to read poetry or prose in front of a receptive community.

Most of those present were students, while other community members joined the event.

The warm and sunny weather lured passersby off Locust Walk as well.

College sophomore Aaron Couch, coordinator of Speakeasy, expressed enthusiasm at the change of surroundings.

"It's a relaxing atmosphere from the stresses of Penn life," Couch said. "And since it's spring, everyone's outside already."

Couch began with a bit of humor, opening the microphone to the handful of children running on the lawn. He then recited an excerpt from the movie Dead Poet's Society to explain the purpose of Speakeasy.

"Poetry, beauty, romance, love -- this is what we stay alive for," Couch quoted.

College junior Jessica Delpino strode up to the microphone to recite her work in public for the first time. She began with a piece of short prose piece entitled "Illuminate," about a scene in a coffee shop.

In Delpino's story, a comparative literature major from Tufts University bemoaned that "her brain was worth over $100,000 but she was making $7 an hour."

College sophomore Tim Coble shared his poem "Take Back the Night" about his experience at the recently-held event on Penn's campus to unite students against sexual violence. Describing the survivors' stories, he read, "They sang like the mournful nightingales."

Declaring her hatred for microphones, one girl presented her poem about a love affair with a married man and his return to his wife.

"She is the sum of yourself and your dreams," she said softly. "As for me, I am a watercolor. I wash off."

Another girl declared, "I am the sex goddess of the Western Hemisphere," as three children eagerly ran up to the poet and scurried away. The crowd laughed nervously.

Many audience members were Speakeasy regulars and took their turns at the microphone.

For Delpino, reciting her prose at the Speakeasy was "liberating [and] freeing."

"I never read in public," Delpino said. "It petrifies me. I needed to overcome this fear."

Other audience members were there to support their friends. College sophomore Perry Goodman came to listen to his roommate read.

"It's a beautiful day," Goodman noted, adding that he enjoyed "the natural setting as opposed to being inside."