“The Highly Modern Writing of Today:” Inside SOU’s May Day Poetry Riot

On Wednesday, the first day of May, seven students read their own poetry in the Art Building’s Meese Auditorium. The presentations lasted for around a half hour, and all work displayed was created by Southern Oregon students. Most were in the Creative Writing program, and many of the pieces featured were crafted and refined in its selection of classes. The program caters to poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and everything in between.

The May Day Poetry Riot is an ongoing tradition at SOU. The intention behind it is to tap into the authentic talent of the University’s creative writing students. A brainchild of Creative Writing Professors Kasey Mohammad and Craig Wright, it’s easily accessible for students at all levels and all programs to participate in. The reading welcomed friends, family, distant acquaintances, strangers off the street, and anyone else that might be interested.

May Day isn’t the only time of the year that the Creative Writing program advertises its talent. As a matter of fact, earlier in the year the program hosted the Valentine’s Day Love Fest, which was a fiction reading. It also exclusively featured students reading their own work. The philosophy guiding these readings is that art is propelled by the creator’s imagination. Its purpose isn’t to direct but tap into each writer’s talent and imagination. Originally, the St. Valentine’s Day Love Fest featured poetry and fiction. As the program expanded, it split the readings into a fiction reading on Valentine’s Day and a poetry reading on May Day to include as many writers as possible.

The pieces featured last Wednesday ran the whole gamut of the human experience, from love to absurdity to social justice and everything in between. Like life, they could be graphic, abstract, or laugh out loud funny depending on the moment and reader.

The reading gives Southern Oregon University a lot to be optimistic about within the program. “The students in the Creative Writing program right now,” says Professor Kasey Mohammad, “are blowing me away. We’ve had lots of great writers, but never so many all at one time, I think.”

Southern Oregon University has always been a safe haven for the creative arts, whether that’s the theater arts, visual arts, or creative writing. The May Day poetry reading, in many ways, symbolizes the program’s successful ambitions– to train writers whose creativity is cutting edge, and are fluent in 2024 rather than abstract theories and styles that aren’t being published today. Plans for an additional reading event in the fall are also in the works.

“While we’ve had a number of successful writers come out of our program,” says Professor Craig Wright, “I think our community now is more vibrant and focused than ever. Our best writers are curious, driven, and passionate and work on the verge of what is happening in the highly modern writing of today.” Last Wednesday’s poetry was a milestone, tangible proof of the program’s progress. In some ways, it is a monument to practicality. It showcases one of the most attractive and valuable things this program and any educational institution can offer, that it can train students to write in ways that are relevant to what’s being written and read in 2024.

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