Poetry reading lets writers unwind

Under the eerie gaze of past professors’ portraits, students gathered as writers, readers and listeners in the John Dewey Lounge Thursday, Oct. 7 to share original and other written works. Jim Davis, founder of the biweekly poetry reading Champlain Creative, encouraged English master’s student Phil Zapkin to participate. Zapkin took over last year when Davis graduated and has been organizing the event ever since. Zapkin set up the room, provided snacks and began the evening with a poem. On Oct. 7, Zapkin set the mood with an unsettling reflection of unrequited love by the French poet Baudelaire. “I jumped at the opportunity to get involved in a writing group,” Zapkin said. “I think that was actually the idea behind it originally, just a place for people who enjoy writing, but may not seriously consider themselves ‘writers,’ to come and read without any pressures.” Although familiar faces are frequent, many new ones were present through word-of-mouth or the English department’s e-mail reminders. Junior Alissa Carberry discovered Champlain Creative through a friend and now attends on the weeks that Burlington’s Firehouse Gallery readings do not occur, she said. “It is a good way for people — a nice informal way — to be connected [with other writers] … to drop in and out instead of a rigid class schedule,” Carberry said. As an English graduate student and teaching assistant, Zapkin tries to emphasize the importance of on-campus outlets of creativity to his students. “I offer extra credit to come and absorb some culture, so we usually have some students who normally would never think to check out a poetry reading,” Zapkin said.  The overall collaboration of writing and creativity, ranging from undergraduate to graduate levels, is a unique experience for students unaware of the English department’s diversity. UVM alum Chris Croweak has found an outlet in Champlain Creative as he has been writing more.  “I’ve been more consistent [in attending] lately,” Croweak said. “I had always wanted to read and never did it. From what I hear, the quality of the writing is high.” Sydney Lieb, a regular attendee to Creative, plans to submit her poetry to upcoming literary magazine Demonyms, Lieb said. Zapkin declared her the informal “winner” of the night’s readings. Not everyone read, with half of those in attendance there just to lend an ear, perhaps working up the courage to someday read a poem of their own.  Writers of UVM looking for an outlet for their work can check out Champlain Creative at 7:15 p.m. every other Thursday night in the John Dewey Lounge.