By Javier Burdette
The UCI Master of Fine Arts in Poetry and Fiction (MFA) program transformed Humanities Gateway into a literary paradise Wednesday evening during its latest graduate fiction and poetry reading.
The MFA Reading Series highlights the talents of postgraduate writers with a taste for poetry and prose, fiction and the not-too-fictional, who, as the MFA department puts it, “intend to make their writing their life.”
Kathleen Mackay and Bryce Lillimars — two writers in the fields of poetry and fiction, respectively — hosted Wednesday’s presentations, and introduced the night’s first writer, Philadelphia native Ben Magid. Magid is rooted in the law field, but his passion for writing coerced him to leave behind the Atlantic for the West Coast.
Magid’s short story offers humor and insight into the complex dynamics of depression. He told a tale through the eyes of a boy watching his father spontaneously decide to relinquish all his worldly possessions and live in a hole he digs in the backyard.
Unlike his brother and mother, who shrug off the erratic behavior, the boy grows deeply concerned for his father’s well being. As the feeling of isolation and uncertainty sets in, it becomes increasingly unclear whose sanity remains intact, if anyone’s at all.
Laced with hilariously vulgar conversations between the boy and his brother, Magid’s story is a relatable portrayal of lunacy and familial interactions at their rawest.
Before joining the crowd, Magid ushered another East Coast writer onto the stage, poet Sarah Peace.
“Sarah’s poems give power to life’s small things,” said Magid.
Her subject matter ranged from grapefruits, to yoga movements, to little girls who are satisfied with only two bites of a meal.
Sarah’s somber delivery and stretched out pauses left the room dead quiet as she explored the bittersweet nature of citrus and the transition from New York to Los Angeles.
Then came Rebecca Schultz, an English and Art student from Yale.
In the excerpt she selected, teens Clara and Rosalind, self-proclaimed “night girls,” roam the city, sharing drinks and texting boys as they prepare to go to a party. Despite the premise, Schultz carefully weaves elevated meaning into the marvelously crafted dialogue.
Finally, with applause and cheers of approval from his friends seated in the audience, poet Nick Maurer took his place in the spotlight.
Maurer gave some context concerning his poems, stating that they were drawn from a writing exercise in which he wrote a poem every day for a month. Each brief poem he read was a small snapshot of his life.
One piece he introduced by saying, “This is a poem I wrote while I was taking a really lame art class.”
Beneath the obvious humor of this sentiment, it’s a fair reminder that art and poetry happen anywhere, and perhaps that’s what enables these students to capture life through literature, and meaning through words.
The organization’s next on-campus reading will be held on Jan. 27, at 6:30 PM in HG 1030.