Writers on the Bay: Balancing oppression, cruelty and humor with visiting poets

Vievee Francis (left) and Matthew Olzmann (right) during the Q&A | Kaysea Suzana, PantherNOW

Kaysea Suzana | Assistant Entertainment Director 

Two poets juxtaposed satirical humor with an earnest look into life in oppression at the spring semester’s first Writers on the Bay.

As part of the English department’s creative writing program, the Writers on the Bay series welcomed authors Vievee Francis and Matthew Olzmann on Jan. 30 to the Biscayne Bay Campus bookstore for a reading of their latest poetic works. 

Francis, author and professor at Dartmouth college, is best known for her poetry collections such as “Blue-Tail Fly” or “Forest Primeval”.

Olzmann, a poetry editor, is also notable for his poetry works, such as “Mezzanines” and “Contradictions In Design”, with his latest work “Constellation Route” published in Jan. 2022.

One of the organizers for the event, and creative writing professor herself, Julie Marie Wade, commented on what made this Writer’s on the Bay event unique to others done before. 

“We rarely get a double feature… With this one being very special to me because sometimes when you come to know a writer’s work, like I’ve come to know Olzmann’s, you end up becoming friends with them and their literature,” Wade said.

Olzmann chose his share of poems, some brimming with comedic titles such as “Why I’m against learning new things” or “Letter to Bruce Wayne”, that hilariously tap-dance around topics of marriage, the banality of human life, senseless violence, and an encouraging speech to a college of clowns.

Francis, with her works following a punchier, grittier representation of her own life events as a Black woman born in 1960’s Texas, focused on the tragic reality of oppression, racial discrimination, and abusive relationships through lyrical poetry.

“I want you to hear this as one song,” Francis told the crowd, as she read out multiple poems in continuum. 

Though double-features are not common, this event is not the first time a poet-couple take the stage, following last year’s event in October. 

“I also think that these two poets juxtaposed like a beautiful gravitas that comes into that humor and absurdity that Olzmann exposed,” Wade said.

This Writers on the Bay also garnered more attendance than past events, leaving little room in the BBC bookstore.

“Our typical expectancy for a standard night would be around 40 people. Tonight I think we’re more in the 60 class,” Wade said.

Present at the event, sophomore and creative writing major Justin Lieberman, mentioned what spoke to him about the reading. 

“This reading made me recognize that poems can be light-hearted while tackling heavy themes,” Lieberman wrote to PantherNOW.

As the two poets flourished their works, the event moved onto the question and answer section.

The questions centered on finding inspiration, of knowing when to write, or even how to use a specific metaphor that’s also universal to readers. 

“We’re all writing in our situation and that’s the normative,” Francis said.

The night ended with a book signing of the two author’s while organizers reminded attendees to stay tuned for the announcement of the next Writers on the Bay.

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