In an invigorating celebration of women’s literature and art, members of Boston College’s The Laughing Medusa delivered elegant, inspired, and sometimes quirky poetry and prose, in the sweltering heat of the Stokes Art Tent Saturday afternoon. Surrounded by vibrant student paintings, a black backdrop set the stage in front of an eager audience as the first woman of many approached the microphone. Nicola McCafferty, MCAS ’17, editor of The Laughing Medusa and emcee of the event, introduced the show with the release of their spring 2017 magazine, which featured both artwork and submissions by women.
The first reading was a nameless poem by Emma Campbell, MCAS ’20, which reflected on coping with change and overcoming anxiety at college. Haunting and rich in analogies and written in an introspective style, Campbell compared entering into the daunting new world of college.
“The first day of college is like jumping out of a place in six-inch heels … and then your parachute won’t open,” she said. “Dante traveling the seven circles of Hell, but without Virgil to guide me.”
Colleen Reynolds, MCAS ’17, stepped onstage to delivered a poem dedicated to her mother, Mary, entitled “The Week My Fingernails Broke.” Her rhythmic voice reflected the contrast between the hope and strength she drew from her mother after voting for the first time, and the empty feeling after the election. The last line in particular left chills.
“I really don’t think there is a God but I know there is a blessed mother and her name is Mary,” she said.
Corinne Duffy, MCAS ’17 and a former editor of The Heights, left a lasting impression with her lighthearted yet honest style. Described by McCafferty as a “really rad reading,” she delivered a meaningful, hilarious, and relatable piece. “Encyclopedia Red: BECOMING A WOMAN” came from an essay she wrote for a class, but also included 28 separate stories of other women, representing the 28 days of the menstrual cycle. Reminiscent of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, Duffy elicited quite a few knowing laughs from the crowd.
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Naphisa Senanarong, MCAS ’17, whose prose originated from her senior thesis, offered one of the most dynamic pieces of the show. “On Surprising Losses” fell in the vein of creative nonfiction, as it offered both a commentary on the global environment, and its synchronicities with events in her personal life. Senanarong beautifully detailed senseless deterioration with the sinking of the Maldives and Miami, the blanching of the Great Barrier Reef due to ocean acidification, and her grandmother’s Alzheimer’s disease.
“A part of my mind still fights the idea that the city could be well beneath sea levels by the time I got my shit together,” she said.
The writing of Taylor Puccini, MCAS ’19, struck a painfully familiar chord with the women in the audience. Her poem, “Power of Talk,” detailed the oppressive tendency of the patriarchy to elevate men while simultaneously silencing women, who are taught to apologize for expressing their opinions and ideas. The timely verity of her words drew several snaps from the crowd.
“While you riddled a new vernacular somewhere between those 26 letters: A, B, C, … I was taught the language of ‘excuse me’ and ‘I’m sorry’, from matriarchs,” she said. “Passing along the Art of the Apology—it’s written by a man.”
Another highlight of the show was Gabrielle Downey, MCAS ’19’s Autumn’s Samsara.” Full of enchanting language and rich visual imagery of nature, it brought forth the sensations of wind-swept days and the maturity of autumn, along with the hopeful notion of death and rebirth that comes with the changing seasons, as with personal growth.
The closing pieces were delivered by McCafferty herself. Her poem, “You’d Be Prettier Without Your Glasses,” disavowed the materialism and superficial nature of Hollywood. She took the stage powerfully as she let her words convey heartfelt feelings. Run on sentences overwhelmed the audience, while instilling her sensation of being engulfed in a culture of pretense; counterintuitive to true individuality.
“She tastes pretension in the sour salt of mango margaritas and the derisive laughs of people she just met but is sure she doesn’t like,” she said.
The welcoming space and the open attitude of the performers was made evident by the relaxed nature of the women on stage, and the beautiful, intimate and profound experiences and thoughts they shared in their own compelling words.
Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor