When I entered the dining room where the United We Read event was taking place, I was greeted by the sound of forks clinking against plates. Though the room was full, there was a homelike feeling to the setting, as many people turned backward in their chairs to talk across the tables. Considering that this student/faculty reading had a food theme, Polonez, a polish restaurant in Franklin, provided the perfect setting.
I made sure to order as much as possible from the discounted menu, as I wanted to try as many new things as I could, and settled in for an entertaining night of food, poetry, and storytelling.
It was not a disappointing evening.
The first reader, Marissa Jean Neal, read her poetry with a cheerful delivery which made it easy to become entranced by her writing. Sometimes, that sunniness contrasted with the words, as she smilingly read about bones and severed limbs. This style of delivery did not take away from the subject though, instead providing a layer of humor that worked well and connected imagery with her playful wordings and pop culture references.
The next reader, Mollie Boutell, read from a creative nonfiction piece about potato pancakes. She showed an exceptional gift at taking something that seems innocuous and making it personal, by using the piece to explore the emotional connections between potato pancakes and her family life. Her essay was at times funny, poignant, and very relatable, as it connects to anyone who has had that one dish that their family made that will always bring back fond memories.
The third reader, Peter Burzynski, was not only integral to the event because of his poetry; he was also helping to cook the food! His reading was incredibly dynamic, which provided a performance aspect to his poems. His voice could be at times soothing, sometimes slow, and others quick and breathless. This reading style also worked well with the humor in his work. Both in his poems, as he introduced his work, he showed a willingness to poke fun at himself that invited the audience in on the jokes. This humor worked well with some of the darker or more sexual references found within some of the poems he read.
The final reader was George Clark, a faculty member at UWM, who was substituting for the scheduled reader, Rikki Clarke. He was the only reader that night who read from a fiction piece. His style of reading was lilting and melodic. There was a definite rhythm in his work, which is something less common in fiction than in poetry.
On top of the wonderful works of literature, the food was excellent. I was able to try a sampler of differently prepared fish and a variety of pierogis, without it being too terribly expensive. Unfortunately, this was the last United We Read event this year, but there are many other readings around campus. Go and check them out! You might find your new favorite writer.