Student authors exchange inspiration, original poetry at St. Andrews forum

By Mary Katherine Murphy

January 31, 2014

LAURINBURG — A handful of student poets at St. Andrews University’s weekly writers’ forum on Thursday shared samples of their work while discussing the creative process and stifling the “inner critic.”

The Ronald H. Bayes Writers’ Forum series, free and open to the public, is held on Thursdays throughout the academic year. Thursday was the first of four “open mic” nights this semester, where students and other artists are free to read original poetry or writing, works by other authors, or even song lyrics.

Though vestiges of the week’s winter weather kept Thursday’s attendance low, two SAU seniors and Cate Johnson, an editorial assistant for the university’s press, shared their work with a small audience. Setting a relaxed tone for the forum, Johnson called out “everybody heckle him” as Andrew Primeau stepped up to read an untitled original poem.

Johnson herself presented a poem entitled “Five by Five,” which, she explained before sheepishly asking if anyone present watches “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” is military slang for “everything is good.”

Darian Cahill, of Goldsboro, flipped through his phone to find his poem “Closing Chapter,” a personal story beginning “Four years in the making, a young kid vivacious and ready for the taking,” and ending “Confident in his abilities and strengths, he knows he will beat the odds and not end up dead or in jail like they thought.”

Johnson gave an encouraging response to those final lines.

“You could never go to jail,” she said. “I’m just saying, in case anybody ever tells you that. You’re too nice.”

Both prone to insecurities in creating and sharing poetry, Johnson and Primeau spoke to overcoming impediments in the writing process.

“It’s tough to just to sit down and write, and it’s grueling,” said Primeau. “You just need to sort of get yourself out of your own way and get the words on the page.”

“The inner critic is the worst, everybody will tell you that,” Johnson added. “You have to turn off that voice in your head that’s like ‘oh, this isn’t good enough’ because you’ll never get anywhere. You just won’t.”

All three writers said that drawing inspiration from other sources contributes greatly to their final product. Primeau borrows words, ideas, and concepts from everything to the music he hears to the student poetry he reads as the editor of Gravity Hill, St. Andrews’ student literary journal.

“I’m going through other people’s poetry and trying to put together a book that has a rhythm and a tone to it and I’m getting a little more inspired,” he said.

The writers’ forum also includes visits from outside writers, who bring new perspectives and styles that students may adapt to their own work.

“That’s one of the great things about having our visiting writers,” Johnson said. “Sometimes I make notes of words they say, phrases they use, advice they give, and write it down for future reference. You never know when it’s going to come in handy.”

The writers’ forum is held at 8 p.m. on Thursdays in the Ronald H. Bayes Writers’ Forum lounge in Orange Residence Hall. This week, poet and fiction writer Sherry Rentschler will conduct the forum, with additional open mic dates following on Feb. 13, March 20, and April 3.

Those attending need not be poets themselves, though Primeau noted that those who appreciate poetry should not be afraid to pick up a pen.

“Everybody who likes the arts has some sort of poet inside them, because they have an appreciation for it,” he said. “It’s corny as hell, but it’s true.”