English lecturer James Cushing (left), a published poet, emceed Tuesday’s Loverspeak fundraiser. The event was a unique opportunity for students and teachers to connect, he said.
English lecturer James Cushing (left), a published poet, emceed Tuesday’s Loverspeak fundraiser. The event was a unique opportunity for students and teachers to connect, he said.

Kelly Trom

Pastrami sandwiches, ugly cats, MTV, innocent crushes — you name it.

Any topic you have a love for was fair game at Loverspeak — the annual fundraising for Cal Poly literary annual “Byzantium” — on Tuesday night.

Students and faculty shared their original poems, songs and short stories, as well as those of famous poets in a night devoted to the subject of love. The audience attendance was greater than ever before, numbering between 150 and 160 tickets sold. With all the desks in the room occupied, some audience members sat on the floor a few feet away from the performing poet, creating an intimate and casual atmosphere.

“Every year, it seems to get bigger and more raucous,” English professor and co-director of the creative writing program Kevin Clark said.

Not only was the seating arrangement nontraditional, but the poems were all diverse and focused on different interpretations and relationships involving love.

“You can have a traditional love poem. You can have a poem that takes a comic look at love,” Clark said. “And then you can have a poem that takes a very negative look at love.”

With odes to Adam Ant, the relationship between father and child, the English language, the walk of shame and bitter break-ups, Loverspeak left little wanting. The audience reactions ranged from uncontrollable laughter to gasps and whispers.

“It is just really nice to be in a room of students and faculty where there is no judgement being passed,” English lecturer and Loverspeak emcee James Cushing said.

Loverspeak offered a relaxed, no-pressure platform to share original pieces as well as beloved, well-known poems.

“So much of your time with your teachers is kind of screwed up by the knowledge that you are earning these grades,” Cushing said. “At an evening like this, it is a chance to take a break from all of that and just all celebrate the fact that we are all suffering human beings trying to figure it all out.”

First-time participant and English senior Keren Scarlat attended the event last year. This year she wanted to brush up on her public speaking skills to practice for a future career in teaching.

“The enthusiasm, energy and support in the room is so great,” Scarlat said.

Scarlat read an original poem inspired by an ex-boyfriend and one by E.E. Cummings, because a night about love poems wouldn’t be complete without his work, she said.

“Being a part of the entire artistic community at Cal Poly is really awesome,” English junior and Loverspeak participant Michelle Finck said. “Seeing my professors up there joking around and seeing that they know each other outside of class and stuff like that is really fun.”

Finck became more involved in the English major and club after two previous years of attending Loverspeak, she felt like this was her time to read an original poem of her own.

“I felt like this year I had the confidence to read in front of everybody,” Finck said. “I feel like part of the community and was glad that I had that kind of support behind me.”

Finck’s poem featured her experience with studying abroad in Spain. It explored the broader themes of love of community and connection.

“There was this one day where we took a field trip to this coastal town and we all went swimming,” she said. “I just wrote how we were so far away from everything that was happening back home and that we are still all connected.”

First-time attendee business administration senior Natalie Dinges came to support her friend Kelly Doyle.

“I was genuinely impressed with the whole thing,” Dinges said. “The number of people who attended, the organization of the teachers and students who put it together, and of course the speakers were able to display their emotions so willingly; it was inspiring.”

The event raised $325 for “Byzantium.” Submissions for “Byzantium” are due on Friday. The unveiling of this year’s journal will be sometime in late April or early May at Sally Loo’s Wholesome Cafe.

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