By Sophie Foster
The Rose O’Neill Literary House saw its annual Senior Reading on Tuesday, April 25 at 6 p.m., this year featuring the creative work of seven student writers.
These writers — seniors Regina Del Pilar, Olivia Dorsey, Michelle Henry, A.J. Gerardi, Eylie Sasajima, Amara Sorosiak, and Patricia Tiu — shared literary work from a variety of disciplines, including both poetry and prose.
Introduced by Director of the Literary House Dr. James Allen Hall, the event took a more creative, less academic approach to the sharing of student work. Participating students were given a few minutes each to read their written work to their peers and members of the community at large, who filled the Literary House to near capacity.
According to Sasajima, this was her first time sharing work at a public reading in this capacity since her First-Year Reading in the fall of 2019, which was followed by a few years’ period in which she wrote little, or was unhappy with the work she produced.
“It’s only been within the past few months that I’ve written pieces that feel complete and compelling to me, and the Senior Reading was just a really nice opportunity to bounce these poems off of an audience. It helped materialize my work in a very constructive way,” Sasajima said.
Sorosiak also signed up for the Senior Reading following a positive experience at the 2019 First-Year Reading.
“I probably would have regretted not taking the leap,” Sorosiak said. “It’s such a cool and unique tradition at WC that I’ll never be able to replicate. It’s neat to read at the same podium that so many successful writers have read at before.”
There is something intrinsically valuable about the act of featuring writers that create and live on the WC campus that cannot be replicated entirely by visiting writers and their readings or workshops, according to Sasajima. She believes that the Senior Reading and similar occasions, such as the respective First-Year and Sophomore/Junior Readings, emphasize the strength and importance of WC’s literary resources.
According to Sorosiak, WC’s literary community is “built on its students.”
“Everything, from Lit House talks to Writers’ Union meetings, is to the benefit of its student writers,” Sorosiak said. “It’s imperative that students of all years get an opportunity to share their work with the community and are afforded a space for it to be appreciated. We’re here to nurture and celebrate writers, so readings such as the Senior Reading are only logical.”
The highlight of the event for Sorosiak was hearing her classmates’ work read aloud and enjoying the variety of ideas, styles, and forms that provided a lasting glimpse into each individual’s literary investments.
For Sasajima, who is also the Editor in Chief of Collegian, WC’s literary and arts journal, the most valuable takeaway from events such as this is the ability to recognize the talent of her peers.
“I got the chance to talk to Regina afterward about how fortunate we’ve been to have published her work in Collegian this year,” Sasajima said. “And it was amazing to hear Patricia read from ‘Guidance,’ which is forthcoming in issue 34.3. I feel lucky to be in a cohort of writers who explore different genres and themes with such creativity and talent.”
The Literary House also took the opportunity presented by the reading to announce the winners of its three annual writing prizes: the Jude and Miriam Pfister Poetry Prize, the William W. Warner Prize for Creative Writing on Nature and the Environment, and the Literary House Genre Fiction Prize.
According to an email sent by Assistant Director of the Literary House Amber Taliancich, the Pfister Poetry Prize, created in collaboration with the Academy of American Poets, is a $100 cash award and certificate from the academy granted to a single poem of “exceptional literary merit.”
This year, the contest for this award was judged by poet, translator, and memoirist Rajiv Mohabir, and was awarded to freshman McKenna Smith. The runner-up was senior Michelle Henry.
The Warner Prize, meanwhile, is a $500 cash prize award granted to a student who shows significant skill for writing about nature and environmental concepts. Endowed in honor of environmental author William W. Warner, the judge of this contest is encouraged to give particular preference to work centering the Atlantic Littoral, which spans from the Canadian Arctic to the Gulf of Florida.
This award’s recipient was senior Sophia Rooks, and the runner-up was sophomore Iris Scherr.
The final of the three prizes, this one in genre fiction, was awarded to the student who produced “the best work of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or horror,” Taliancich said.
This year, the $100 Genre Fiction Prize was awarded to Elm Copy Editor junior Vee Sharp, with the recognized runner-up of Natalie Martinaitis.
Tuesday’s proceedings marked the functional conclusion of the Literary House’s spring semester agenda, though there will be a virtual launch reading in celebration of the release of Cherry Tree’s ninth issue on Tuesday, May 9 at 7 p.m. Future Literary House events will be accessible on their website in the coming months.
Photo by Sophie Foster
Photo Caption: Following the Senior Reading, participants gathered to sign the event’s poster, which will remain in the Literary House as a memento of their graduating class.