Final MFA reading showcases graduate students’ work

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By Rachel Popa

A reading featuring the work of three graduate students, Laura Ballou, Lavelle Smith Hall and Jim Kourlas took place on Monday, April 27 in Gage 700.

The reading, a part of the MFA in Creative Writing series of readings, was hosted by the MFA in Creative Writing program, the Oyez Review and the Department of Literature and Languages.

Ballou, born in Naperville, has lived in many different places, including Argentina, Northampton, Mass., southern California., Cambridge, Mass. and here in Chicago.

Ballou’s writing was described as “[buzzing] with frantic energy, her narrators say and unsay, searching for the best descriptions for things that help them deal with the circumstances they’re in, or rather the circumstances they believe they find themselves in.”

Ballou read from her thesis, titled “Either,” pronounced with a hard “E” sound instead of the normal soft “E” sound.

“Earlier this year I moved to the Boston suburbs. I live in a one-bedroom apartment above a video store,” Ballou said. “When I wake up, the warm sun is shining right into my kitchen. When I moved in, I hung a hummingbird feeder outside the window, and I so love when the hummingbirds come….I wake up every morning, and sit on a chair in this kitchen and gaze outside. I have a cup of coffee. The sun has a story.”

The next graduate student that read their work was Hall. First, Hall told the audience a little about herself.

“I came to Roosevelt as a writer,” Hall said. “I believe as a writer, I’m only as good as the stories and characters in my life.”

The characters that Lavelle writes pop into her head fully formed, as she described to the audience one of her characters named Lucy, whose sister believes that she was found in a dumpster.

“Lucy came to me in spurts,” Hall said. “Therefore, I wrote her story, 183 pages, in vignettes.” Hall shared parts of Lucy’s story, starting from the beginning and then gave snippets of the middle, but saved the end for when the book gets published.

“I was found in a dumpster on the corner of 22nd and Lexington Avenue,” Hall said. “Mommy and daddy were out late one night, they had been partying in the city, heading to the train back to Brooklyn. Daddy heard crying from a nearby dumpster…Mommy didn’t want to take her home, but daddy insisted.”

The last graduate student to read their work was Kourlas. He read from a part of his thesis titled “Skull Sessions.”

“The black labrador retriever arched its back and let out a moan from a wallow of matted grey carpeting,” Kourlas said. “Drool seeped from the dog’s speckled white muzzle and its greasy coat was riddled with benign, fatty tumors…The only time it ever rose from the living room floor was when a morsel of food hit the ground or when the front door of the house was left open long enough to permit.”

This particular reading concluded the MFA in Creative Writing Program reading series, which took place during the entirety of the spring semester.

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