Students keep poetry alive with DIY festival

Lily Cummings

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Three Loyola students not only read their poems around New Orleans but are planning a three-day festival to showcase their poetry and the work of others.

Jo Gehringer, English senior, opens up her home at 1932 Broadway St. for poetry readings regularly and will host the first night of the 2tender4house: indie lit festival on March 24 through 26.

The festival is the brainchild of several Loyola poets whose aim is to showcase the work of local queer and transgender poets and people of color in an attempt to build a more tight-knit and inclusive
poetry community.

The writers in this community said they try to influence one another. Zoe Blair-Schlagenhauf, art and design junior, and Margaret O’Connell, English writing and philosophy sophomore, said they look up to Gehringer. Gehringer, in turn, is influenced by O’Connell, Blair-Schlagenhauf, other Loyola poets around the area and faculty member Peyton Burgess.

“Jo is the reason I started writing,” Blair-Schlagenhauf said. “They [Jo and poet friends] showed me poetry doesn’t have to be inaccessible or have to rhyme.”

Gehringer, Blair-Schlagenhauf and friend Amelia Seidel run a literary magazine they call Tenderness, Yea. Blair-Schlagenhauf will also release her first poetry book at the festival, titled “Chlamydia Summer.” O’Connell and Blair-Schlagenhauf shared their excitement for the event as they have worked hard to raise money and have poets fly in from across the country.

Blair-Schlagenhauf also credits Gehringer with being a key proponent in starting the Loyola poetry scene. It originally began at Loyola’s 1718 production at the Columns Hotel until Gehringer began opening up her home.

“Sharing that [writing] in a room full of people that are there for it, and listening and attentive and supportive, is probably my favorite thing I do in my life,” Gehringer said.

Blair-Schlagenhauf said there is potential to grow when you share your work with like-minded individuals.

“No one has the same exact words for things,” Blair-Schlagenhauf said. “Even if we are talking about the same thing, we describe it in different ways.”

The poets explained that poetry means something different to each of them. While Blair-Schlagenhauf said poetry gives her an opportunity to talk about tenderness, O’Connell commented that poetry for her isn’t the pretentious, inaccessible connotation it sometimes receives but fulfills that desperate want to communicate with people.

“One of the best things about poetry is that it can mean so many things to so many different people,” Gehringer said. “To me, lately, poetry has been about survival.”

O’Connell and Blair-Schalegenhauf also explained that there are many different types of poetry describing them as subtle, conversational speeches and showy-poetry with a reactive quality.

Blair-Schlagenhauf said Gehringer describes it best when she says, “A poem is bad when there are more words than feelings.”

All three poets agreed that humor is important in poetry. O’Connell believes humor humanizes poetry. Gehringer described poetry as telling a joke and said she feels certain lines provide an “aha” moment that can flip your perception of
the world.

“It [humor] can break down the walls so they can actually hear what you’re saying,” Blair-Schlagenhauf said.

For locations of the 2tender4house indie lit festival happening March 24 through 26, check out the event’s Facebook group.

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