Poets Out Loud Reading: Joe Legaspi and Connie Roberts

On Monday, September 26th, Fordham students and faculty gathered in Lowenstein’s 12th Floor Lounge for the first Poets Out Loud reading of the semester. The audience, which also included a number of young participants in Poets Out Loud's high school outreach program, soon reached standing room only. 102 people in all attended: a terrific turnout for the start of a new academic year. Professor Heather Dubrow introduced the poets, Joseph Legaspi and Connie Roberts, with her usual intellect and enthusiasm, and everyone in attendance settled in to enjoy.

In her introduction, Professor Dubrow noted that Joseph Legaspi’s poetry is remarkable in part because of “how intensely it appeals to all the senses.” Legaspi began with an ode, citing an ode’s ability to “celebrate the things of this world.” This poem, “Ode to My Mother’s Hair,” showcases important recurring themes in his work: his family and his Filipino heritage. Poems such as “My Sister’s Wedding” and “Last Christmas Party at Dr. Alejandro Elementary School” feature Legaspi’s memories crystallized in beautiful language, while the prose poem, “Watermelon” retells a familiar childhood incident as creation myth. Legaspi read with warmth and humor, making the audience feel immediately at home. 

Like Legaspi, Connie Roberts also draws inspiration from her family and heritage. Her reading was peppered with information about the geography of her native Ireland and the incidents that inspired her. Drawing on Pope Francis’s Laudato Si, the summer reading assignment for all incoming first-year students, Roberts said that her work reflects a “melding of mother nature and human nature,” and how respect for one builds respect for the other. Her work is painfully honest. “I strike for balance in my poetry,” she said. “No one’s all good or all bad.” In “A Crown for Their Last Night in Ballybrittan,” Roberts conjures a horrifying scene of violence in her childhood home, while “Oasis” details the exceptional kindness of her foster mother. One of her later poems, “Mosaic” was inspired by Grace Farrell, a fellow Irish woman who froze to death in the atrium of St. Brigid’s Church. This poem, like most of her work, conveys Roberts’s intense compassion. 

After the reading, Professor Dubrow returned to the podium and eight lucky audience members won free books in a drawing. A reception followed with refreshments, and the poets were able to mingle with attendees. All in all, the event proved to be a wonderful start to a new semester. Join us for the next Poets Out Loud reading on Thursday, October 20th.

-Erin Coughlin