By Kaela Vecchia-Zeitz, Contributing Writer
Cramped, crowded, full people chattered excitedly. A tunnel of chairs lined through the center of the house funneled listeners through three different rooms. There were seats in which the writer wasn’t even visible, speakers set up alongside the walls to accommodate. NYU Creative Writing Program’s Alumni Reading, hosted at the Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House, featured three newly published writers, all alumni of the NYU Creative Writing MFA program; Janine Joseph, Solmaz Sharif and Ocean Vuong.
Janine Joseph, assistant professor at Oklahoma State University, read first from her collection of poems, “Driving Without a License.” She began by saying “This is an emotional reading for me. I immigrated to the States in 1991, and it’s still a difficult story for me to tell. But as we see what’s happening in our current political atmosphere, it’s a more and more necessary story to tell.” Joseph then segued into her poem “Leaving the Non-Profit Immigration Office.”
Solmaz Sharif, a lecturer at Stanford, read next from her book, “Look.” She dove right into her reading, in a serious — and almost sarcastic — tone. She closed with, “Have you thanked your executioner today?” an ode to the horrors her family has witnessed from war. She said, “That one was written upstairs.” Sympathizers in the audience hummed with warmth. The entire room felt like a family gathering.
To close the night was Ocean Vuong, reading from his first book, “Night Sky With Exit Wounds.” Born in Vietnam, the first poem he read was written in the voice of his mother. He said, “My mother is illiterate, and I always wonder what she could say in a poem.” He read several of his works, then closed by saying, “All art is collaboration. I am indebted to this place for allowing me to move forward.”