Spring CLS event: The Contemporary Literature Series Partners with the Minetta Review to Celebrate NYU Poets (by Louisa Brady and Kazue Thomas)

On April 14th of this year, a crowd gathered at Greenwich Village’s Jefferson Market Library for a reading featuring a diverse range of NYU poets. Among the attendees of the event—which was co-sponsored by the Contemporary Literature Series and NYU’s Minetta Review—were students, faculty members, and lovers of literature.

A considerable portion of the audience was made up of staff members and editors of Minetta, which this event was organized to celebrate. Established in 1974, Minetta Review is the oldest surviving literary publication of NYU. The magazine, published twice annually, features a wide variety of work from the NYU’s undergraduate student body, including prose, poetry, and artwork.

Top row: Scott Hightower, Sebastian Lopez Calvo, Kevin Beerman, Kari Sonde
Bottom row: Crystal Valentine,  Christopher Soto, Alana Saab

The event featured poets Kevin Beerman, Sebastian Lopez Calvo, Kari Sonde, Alana Saab, Crystal Valentine, Christopher Soto and NYU faculty member Scott Hightower, recently honored with the 2016 Barnes & Nobles Writer for Writers Award. Several, though not all, of the readers have been featured in past Minetta Review editions. Each poet read for several minutes, sharing a variety of poems.

“It’s hard to say what my process was,” said Beerman, a senior, on how he chose which of his work to read for the event. “I considered stuff that I was writing up until the day or two before the reading. I wanted to read poems that had a variety of tones and topics, that incorporated the variety of styles I like to write in.”

The whole evening seemed to reflect this attitude. At the end of the day, it was a gathering of writers from different backgrounds, reading about topics that they were passionate about or personally connected to. Yet everyone, readers and listeners alike, were united by a common purpose: listening to and learning from their peers.

Valentine, who was named NYC Youth Poet in 2015, explained her process in preparing for the event as well. She said, “Most times when I enter inherently white spaces, such as NYU and academia in general, I try to take up as much space as possible by doing my most unapologetic poems, poems that speak of my identity and confront my oppressors.” Valentine is also the current two-time Grand Slam Champion of NYU’s poetry slam team and explained how different a reading and a slam can feel. “The room is always much quieter [at NYU readings] and I sometimes find myself having to ask the audience to actively engage with me, to let me know that they are there,” she said. “But it’s always great performing with other poets. I always learn so much and gain a new perspective.”

The readings were open to the public, and their location at the historic library was indicative of both organizations’ commitment to the Greenwich Village community. Minetta Review co-editor and CLS Fellow Annesha Sengupta explained the desire to host a community-focused event; “The Minetta Review turned 40 last year – we’ve been part of both NYU and the village for just as long,” she said. “This semester, my co-editor Emma Thomas and I really wanted to focus on bringing Minetta back to its roots. This event, with it’s uniquely beautiful location at the Jefferson Market Public Library, with its lineup of student and professional writers, allowed us to bring it all together – our village history and our NYU home.”

While this event represented a return to Minetta’s roots, for the Contemporary Literature Series it represented a broadening of their usual audience. Generally focused on bringing contemporary authors and poets onto the NYU campus and undergraduate classrooms, it was new ground for CLS to present NYU poets to the village at large. “We are very pleased to expand the NYU English Department’s Contemporary Literature Series by partnering with both the Minetta Review and the Jefferson Market Library to showcase our undergraduate creative writing talent,” said Professor Nicholas Boggs, the faculty coordinator of CLS, which he launched in 2012.  Indeed, with the area’s rich literary community, it was a worthwhile endeavor. “So many poets and writers are still in the Greenwich Village area,” Christopher Soto said of the venue chosen for the event. “I think this location and keeping the readings here in Greenwich Village is phenomenal.”

To read about this semester’s roster of CLS classroom visitors—remarkable writers who have come to campus to share their work and insights with the students in a particular English course—visit http://nyu-cls.org/.