As part of the MFA Thesis Reading series, four more MFA students shared their work in the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art. It was a night filled with the perfect combination of well-placed humor and the meaning of good friendships and love. Our readers for the evening were Megan Pipe (fiction), Sam Killmeyer (poetry), Emily Harnden (fiction), and Zach Yanowitz (poetry).

Megan Pipe began the evening by reading a story from her collection titled A Small Tally of Future Regrets. Pipe was described as a writer who both changes the nature of love and fearlessly shares the human heart on the page, reinventing how different work influences us. The short story she read followed the relationship between two sisters, one who lives across the world in Spain.

Megan Pipe reading
Megan Pipe

Through Pipe’s carefully crafted narration, her story’s main character grappled with the loss of her parents in relation to the fear of losing a sister through the growing and permanent distance between them. In the end, I could feel the strength behind the love of sisters, and the power and acceptance of letting go and embracing certain changes.

Camille Dungy introducing Sam Killmeyer
Camille Dungy introducing Sam Killmeyer

The next reader was poet Sam Killmeyer who is finishing her second graduate degree. As Camille Dungy introduced, Killmeyer wants to know about our bodies and how we glow — our honesty, our vulgarity, and even our wisdom. Killmeyer read from her collection currently titled Humans raised by humans raised by humans, explaining that this compilation ranges from poetry about childhood to poetry that is self-reflective. Through her poetry, she questions things like feelings, life, love and the world. This process has allowed her to navigate where and how her body fits within the larger world, and among the bodies of others.

Sam Killmeyer reading
Sam Killmeyer

Her poems are themed around different things, such as daughter poems and dream poems. Her dream poems were inspired by her real dreams, allowing us a brief glimpse at her unconscious mind. The final poem she read was described by Killmeyer as her attempt at a love poem, an attempt I would deem successful. Ultimately, Killmeyer took us on a powerful journey through her own life, the lives of others, and how we all fit together in the large picture of life.

Our third reader was Emily Harnden who was introduced as a “writer with an ear for language.” Her stories typically feature young characters who are women and create journeys or experiences that show how smaller actions can have larger impacts. Much of Harnden’s stories follow tasks and events of everyday life, but also pull meaning out of that life or out of emptiness.

Emily Harnden reading
Emily Harnden

Harnden chose to read a short story titled “Ritual” which followed the relationship of five girls who were best friends. She explained that this story was written quickly and easily last fall, perhaps a story that just needed the right person to tell it. These five girls decide to plan a letting go ritual, a way to start fresh and cleanse themselves through friendship. Much in the way Harnden was introduced to us, she was able to craft multi-dimensional characters and a meaningful story out of these five girls’ fairly uneventful ritual. I clung to her words as she read through each of these girl’s experiences, finally leading us to a larger idea of women finding strength and acceptance through their ritual, and through friendship.

Zach Yanowitz reading
Zach Yanowitz

With four readers, this MFA Thesis Reading lasted longer than most. But poet Zach Yanowitz wouldn’t let any of his audience fade as the night progressed. His brief quips and well-timed jokes provided the perfect atmosphere to lead into his excerpted reading of UN/LIMITED, his final thesis collection. Yanowitz broke this collection into three sections: the first includes poems all with the word unlimited in the title, like “Unlimited teenage werewolves,” “Unlimited jagerbombs,” and “Unlimited overdose;” the second section was an erasure of the first poems, transforming the unlimited poems into limited ones (with each line of each new limited poem mirroring the unlimited poems by way of a single word) with titles like “Limited teenage werewolves,’ etc.; and the final section was a 25-page poem titled “Limitrof.”

As Dan Beachy-Quick explained, Yanowitz’s poetry has the power to make you simultaneously laugh and cry, or laugh-cry, and simultaneously feel like the poem says it’s okay, but also, it’s not okay. His poetry took us through the different selves that exist in the body, cherishing those complexities while also self-doubting. Yanowitz’s use of well-placed humor, and poems about teenage werewolves, was the perfect way to end the reading, but his poetry still felt raw and filled with honesty and confession.

At the conclusion of our fourth reader, the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art was still packed and the energy emanating from each reader lingered in the space. The unending passion and dedication of these MFA students continually shines through their work, creating a powerful place for laughing, crying, and self-reflection.

Join us for our next reading!

Ross Gay reading announcement