SAGE invites poet to campus

Maegan White

Elm Staff Writer

On Monday, March 27, Supporting All Gender Expressions hosted a virtual poetry event with queer artist Ollie Schminkey.

According to an email sent to the campus community on Sunday, March 26, Schminkey hosts weekly writing workshops dedicated to “helping queer and trans writers, musicians, and ceramic artists.” They are also the award-winning author of “Dead Dad Jokes,” an anthology about queerness, family, and trauma.

Students could Zoom into the event themselves or go to Litrenta Lecture Hall in the John S. Toll Science Center to Zoom in with other students. 

Schminkey started off the event by reading three of their poems. These poems spoke about various experiences like their transgender identity, losing their father at the age of 12, and being misgendered and misnamed. 

Many of the works impacted those in attendance deeply, like SAGE secretary sophomore Noelle Punte. 

“I resonated a lot with the poems they read, especially with regards to growing up queer in an area that isn’t accepting, or finding a group of queer people and feeling like you’ve finally found home,” Punte said.

After the poems had been read, the students in attendance had the opportunity to ask questions from Schminkey. The questions ranged from fun insights on their life to advice on how to empower younger queer students and express themselves through art. 

President of SAGE sophomore Evan Merk coordinated and planned the event with the rest of the club. He shared that the event is especially important for transgender individuals who do not get to see themselves represented.

Merk said that he believes seeing that representation in industries you want to pursue is especially impactful.

“When I first came out, I found it hard to picture working as an out trans person and just existing,” Merk said. “Seeing transgender people working and being successful beyond college is integral to our continued success. Knowing there is something to strive towards, and that there are people before us paving the way, is a huge inspiration to keep pursuing our dreams.”

Even though the event was on Zoom, the attendees were able to connect with each other and the artist. They laughed at jokes, shared personal experiences about being queer, asked questions, and had memorable experiences. 

Sophomore Morgan Carlson attended the event and said that Schminkey’s words were incredibly impactful. 

“I loved how much Ollie’s words and stories felt like my own,” Carlson said. “It’s really inspiring to talk to a talented trans artist who is successful as well because my queerness is also prevalent in my art and writing. I also just loved the people that were at the event, and I could feel everyone in the audience resonating with Ollie, which was a powerful experience.”

Although Punte is not much of a writer, she was excited to hear a poet talk about their work in-depth.

“It’s like getting a glimpse of a totally different world for me,” Punte said. “I’m a musician so I’m intimately familiar with music and the creative process behind it, but any other form of art is almost completely alien to me. So it’s always a treat listening to a great poet present their stuff.” 

Merk said that the importance of SAGE on the Washington College campus must continue to be emphasized as the year comes to an end.

“Transgender people need a space to feel safe and connected,” Merk said. “Especially in times like this. I’m glad the college has continued to support SAGE, and I’m really grateful that we get to exist and hold events.”

Photo courtesy of Evan Merk.

Photo Caption: The virtual platform allowed students to attend remotely or with others in Litrenta.

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