Students selected by their professors from 23 colleges in the Boston area read their poetry aloud for the 2013 Greater Boston Intercollegiate Undergraduate Poetry Festival last Thursday night at Boston College.
Victoria Martins, who was chosen to represent Emerson, read her poem “As of Monday.”
The poem follows a woman as she jumps from one incredibly eccentric lifestyle to another: from going to parties in New York to moving to Canada with a complete stranger.
“There are some absurd things that happen, and some moments of humor,” said the sophomore writing, literature, and publishing major of her poem. “But at the end, it’s about just being empty and latching onto all these weird experiences in order to feel something.”
When Martins read her poem in front of the crowd, the moments of humor caught the audience’s attention.
“I pour some wine into the Asian character plant — the one I’m torturing — because it looks like it could use a drink. On Monday, it’s drunk,” Martins read from her poem, as laughter filled the room. “The stock falls over like a housewife at a cocktail party. To sober it up, I pour a little coffee into the pot.”
Before the poetry festival, Martins said she didn’t normally read her poems in front of the public.
“It was more of a personal thing for me,” she said in an interview.
But Martins said at the very beginning of the semester, Julia Story, a part-time writing, literature, and publishing professor, approached her and asked if she wanted to read her poetry at the festival.
After Martins said yes, the two began going through three different pieces Martins had written, eventually choosing “As of Monday.” Story said she was impressed by the way Martins jumped from persona to persona in the poem.
“I really thought it was interesting how one person could contain all these different selves,” she said. “Her imagination is really incredible.”
Story said she was confident she made the right choice when she decided to work with Martins.
“I’m really glad I chose her; I just think she’s a great person,” she said. “I thought she’d be a strong, confident reader, and she was. She’s a great person to represent Emerson.”
After the event was over, Suzanne Matson, professor and chair of the English department at Boston College, said she heard positive reviews of the poetry festival that night.
“I thought, along with other faculty members, that this was a particularly strong night,” she said. “There is always a great variety of voices, and real great work presented.”
Roy Y. Chan, a doctoral student at Boston College, said he thought Martins’ poem was very eloquently written.
“She was very expressive with her writing,” he said. “ I liked the way she described the days and the timing of the poem.”
Martins said she likes to write absurdist poetry, compositions that use weird concepts and interesting imagery to explore parts of everyday life.
“I’m not really one of those poets that has a lot of feelings,” she said. “But I like to write poetry because I see an inherent beauty in things, and I use poetry to access that.”
But she said she didn’t always see poetry in this way. It wasn’t until her sophomore year in high school, when Martins was introduced to the work of American poet Billy Collins, that she said she became interested.
She said she liked Collins’ writing because it was easy to read, and he used everyday, modern speech.
“It was just so funny, but it also had that slight tinge of sadness about it,” she said. “He was my gateway poet. He’s one of those guys who can really get you into the world of poetry seamlessly.”
Now, whenever she has a quiet moment, Martins said she goes for a walk to get herself into the right mindset for writing poetry. She said she has to be by herself to get into a certain way of thinking.
Then, Martins said she can finally sit down and scribble down ideas for her next poem.
“It’s just about taking moments of everyday life and putting it into this concise form,” she said.