Poets straddle line between love and anti-love

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“Personally, I believe the boundary between love and anti-love is always fluctuating,” said Courtney Justus, senior and event planner in charge of the Trinity Review’s Love & Anti-Love Poetry Contest. “Even in love poems or songs, you get a reaction to a negative event. Sometimes love poems are downright sad, but sometimes you get a glimmer of hope.”

The contest brought an intimate group of performers and spectators together last Friday in the Chapman Gold Room. The poems ranged from long-form slam poetry to shorter, less performative pieces. Seven poets participated but only one contestant, Emily Bourgeois, was chosen by the audience as a winner.

“With anti-love poem, there is still a longing for love,” Bourgeois said. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard an anti-love poem that wasn’t a reaction to love.”

Bourgeois’s winning poem, as well as the other contestants, reflected this idea, with many not falling under a clear category of love or anti-love. Instead, they seemed to encompass an idea of bittersweetness with both humor and cutting honesty.

“I’m not much of a love poet, but if I were to decide to wake up one day and write a love poem, the first thing I’d write about is you,” said first-year Gavin Buchanan, reciting from his own poem.

Remarkably, performances this year were much more active than simple readings.

“I noticed this event that there were more performative poetry and I really liked that because we want to encourage the performance aspect, especially to those submitting to the [Trinity] Review,” Justus said. “I would like to get more performative poets without discouraging less performative poets.”

The event itself has proven itself to be a hit with students, as this was its second consecutive year.

“I was pretty excited about this event because it’s one that we brought back last year,” Justus said. “People seem to really enjoy it. Miriam Cone and I brought it back last year when we were editors.”

Though the group at Friday’s event was small, enough to fill half of the Gold Room, the event felt like the right size since almost all the attendants shared their work after the contest was over. The theme of the contest carried into the open mike in the second half, informing the poetry that was shared, many of them being works in progress.

“Open mikes are fun, but this event has an incentive in its topic,” Justus continued. “I enjoyed all of the poems that were read, each of the poets have their own voice and you can really hear that with how they read their own poems. I just like the level of honesty and intimacy of these poems, and how open people were with these poems.”

At the end of the contest and before the open-mike portion started, a jar of chocolates was awarded to the audience favorite Bourgeois, though understandably the results were close.

“A lot of people love to just share their work with others but it’s nice right before to Valentine’s Day to have a jar of chocolate,” Justus said. “I noticed at this year that there were several people that I didn’t remember seeing at other events of ours, which shows that we are appealing to a larger group of people.”

Bourgeois, however, ended up giving that jar of chocolates away to a friend after the event.

“In high school I did slam poetry competitions,” Bourgeois said. “I like the open-mike nights because I can get feedback on new work. Poetry is really a way for me to hammer out my thoughts.”

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