Those sitting in Warren J. Baker Science and Mathematics (building 180), room 101 last night learned a lesson not often taught in Cal Poly classrooms — that sometimes a clever Amazon review can have more literary merit than a widely read novel that sold more than 450 million copies.
An eclectic mix of love poems, odes to food, ex-boyfriend poems and readings of the poetry giants, this year’s Loverspeak did not disappoint. This show was a mix of student and faculty original work along with some classic poetry readings.
“It makes me so proud to be a part of the English department because we have such a strong faculty that is so supportive of their students,” English senior and Byzantium co-editor Monique Nicholas said. “For every couple of students, we had a faculty member that read. It is so wonderful to be a part of because you have people that are brilliant at what they do and actually qualified to read these things and be published poets and authors.”
From Shakespeare to Edgar Allen Poe to a satirical reading of E.L. James, the best-selling author of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” this event captured all types of love. While reading Shakespeare and James in the same room might at first appear to be blasphemous, it is characteristic of the ever-creative, sometimes deep, sometimes wacky English department students and faculty.
The English graduate student trio David Llamas, Emily Nybo and Carla Weber were the creative geniuses behind the theatrical rendition of two combined scenes from “Fifty Shades of Grey,” a very timely choice considering the film hit films two days before. Their goal was to shock the audience, but not the way you would first expect.
“It started out as a joke that we should read ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ but then we started reading it and realized it was so poorly written and we felt like we had to share it,” Nybo said.
Nybo read Anastasia’s uninspired parts, Weber read Christian Grey’s monosyllabic dialogue and Llamas chimed in as Anastasia’s subconscious, denoted by italics in the novel. It all made for a dramatic, one-of-a-kind reading of a scene in which E. L. James tried and failed to make using someone else’s toothbrush sound sexy.
“It was Carla and Emily who mostly assembled it so I wound up with all of the inappropriate parts,” Llamas said. “They said, ‘Davey will say, ‘Holy fuck.””
Llamas took to the stage once more after intermission for a dramatic reading of an Amazon review, “My dinner with Andrea”, for a five-pound bag of Haribo Sugar Free Gummy Bears. It chronicled the misfortunes of a boy in love with a German girl, who ate too many sugar-free gummy bears before their first date, only to late find out that they had a laxative effect.
“There is a lot of anxiety associated with romance and going on a date so it seemed to combine that anxiety with digestion problems,” Llamas said. “For some reason, someone told me that I had to read these gummy bear reviews and that one seemed fitting.”
The other poems’ themes included hot dogs (English department lecturer Sean Green’s “Grilling for One”), ex-lovers (“To my past loves: a confessional poem” by English alumnus Emily Olson) and famous literary figures (“Emily Dickinson Takes a Man into Her Room” by English professor David Kann).
“I teared up a few times, I teared up from laughing several times, and I was completely nonplussed at times,” King said. “I mean the sexual Emily Dickinson came out of left field.”
One of the more heartfelt poems came from English senior Rhiannon Kelly in dedication to her boyfriend of almost five years, computer engineering junior Daniel Griffith. Her poem talked about his obsession with the number five, which stems from his middle name, Vincent, and his birthday on Cinco De Mayo among other things.
“I feel like people grab on to those kind of things, like their favorite color or what house they would be in if they went to Hogwarts,” Kelly said. “They try and pick those little things that make sense out of all the crazy stuff and kind of like that idea that you pick random things and can map it out.”
This was Kelly’s first time reading poetry at Loverspeak. She took a departure from her more native genre of short fiction writing because she wanted to read a poem at Loverspeak before she graduated.
Overall, Nicholas was more impressed with the quality of material read at the event this year than any other.
“I think there was a higher caliber of writing this year,” Nicholas said. “Last year there were a few poems that kind of lost me. This year my attention was grabbed by almost every single poem.”
Describing the event as a sort of English Department homecoming, Nicholas was proud of the faculty and students that shared their own original work but also wanted to encourage more people from all different departments to contribute next year.
“I know this school is full of bright, talented individuals so if next year we could get more students within and outside the English department to not only support but also submit that would be awesome,” Nicholas said.
Loverspeak raised $228.50 for Byzantium, which will be unveiled during spring quarter.