Unconventional, random, honest: the Beats presented at Literary Festival

Paul Worley, Laura Wright and student writers presented the Beats Generation on Tuesday during the Literary Festival. Photo by Brandon Key.

The Literary Festival began on Monday, April 3, and has featured several poets and nonfiction authors. On Tuesday, an event led by WCU’s own Paul Worley saw several students presenting their own poems and even putting together their own book of poems that was available for purchase. This was the largest audience at the festival so far. The University Center theater was almost completely full, with friends, teachers and community members present.

Most of the students that presented poems were from Worley’s class that focused on writers during the Beats Generation. The Beats Generation took place post-World War II era and influenced American culture and politics. The Beats were considered unconventional, experimental and brutally honest.

“The Beats period often dealt with things that were ‘different’ or odd, even random,” explained student writer Kellie Wilcox.

Following that form, Worley and the student writers had a lot to say about many topics. One of Worley’s poems focused heavily on Russia and the negative stereotypes some Americans give to the country and its influence in our governmental policies. Another poem read by WCU student Dillon Jeffery was titled “That’s Pod Racing” and dealt with someone reflecting on their past. Other poems included a “dirty” tale of Abraham Lincoln, one called “Plastic Lover,” and even one called “Canterbury Tales in Wonderland.”

Poem, called “The Nasty Woman,” was presented by three women that discussed and critiqued the idea of the “American Woman” in President Donald Trump’s America and the negative things Trump has said about women. Student writers Kelsey Woodburn and Madeline Forwerck and English professor Laura Wright took turns reciting verses that attempted to put in perspective how women are being viewed in America.

Paul Worley’s students worked with the City Lights Bookstore to create their own books for sale. Photo by Brandon Key.

The student writers took the initiative during their time in Worley’s class and partnered with the City Lights Bookstore to help create a book of their poems called “Alternative Facts.” The books were all bound and personalized by the students, so each copy of the book is different. One of them featured an illustration of Hillary Clinton and another had the word “voice” written on it. The book is available for purchase during the Literary Festival for $10.

The audience members were pleasantly surprised with a lot of humor and questions of right and wrong during the presentation.

“It was really different. I thought it was going to be boring, but the whole presentation sounded like something you would see and hear in a nice coffee house, and it made me think about a lot of things and it makes me want to go to more readings,” said WCU student Ashton Moore.

The Literary Festival continues through Thursday, wrapping up with a presentation from renowned poet Billy Collins.

For more information about the Literary Festival and a schedule and list of presenters, go to the festival’s website.