Donovan Lounge was filled to the walls with what appeared to be faculty, a few friends of the poet, and many students with notebooks and pens at the ready. I sat at the very back near a, nearly depleted, reservoir of metal chairs. The room would have been comfortable, perhaps even relaxing, had it not been stuffed with double its recommended occupancy. I was impressed by the attentiveness of the audience and surprised that not even a single cell phone buzzed, as far as I could tell, for the entire 45 minute reading. Ms. Richardson began with explaining her background, thanking her peers for supporting her for the 8 years she’s been at UNC, and then introduced one of her two books of poems: Copperhead. As she had done in the production of the book, she recommended to aspiring poets that they “pick one thing [they] like and keep digging at it”. I believe she had been “digging” at her childhood, particularly what it was like to grow up in the West. The first poem she read that caught my ear was about accidentally killing an animal while driving. A line I liked particularly was: “I hear my breath more than its crush”.
She spoke often about where she got the inspiration for her poems, one such place was Moby-Dick, which she read a passage from before reading her poem “Fable”. A line that struck me from that poem was “the heart, pressed within the cage of ribs”. I loved the use of the verb “pressed” in that poem. She had read a poem about Sylvia Plath’s obsession with baking cakes during her period of writer’s block. She also wrote a poem for a man that she seemed very fond of, named Jay, who arrived late to the reading. Once he arrived, she read a poem about him, which was the first time she had done so publicly. This poem contained a line that stuck with me: “a knowing child, they told you ‘hush’ and you listened”. The poem also used successive word repetition to hurry its pace, which I thought was an interesting technique. I also noticed after this poem that she frequently used magic in her writing, which I found she used in place of metaphor in many instances (that is, explaining a constriction of limbs as due to a spell rather than some non-fantastical metaphor). Lastly, and what I believe was my biggest takeaway from the reading, I began to observe how one’s locution affects their poetry. When introducing herself and speaking about her poems before reading them, I noticed that Ms. Richardson would often say a full sentence that could stand on its own, and then add quickly spoken related thoughts to that sentence as if they were indented bullet points under a header. This manner of speaking came out in her writing when she, as I mentioned before, repeated words in her poem to quicken its pace. I really liked this touch which seemed so accidental yet deeply personal, and I’ll now be very aware of this quality when I read or hear more poems.