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“Give and Take and Give” - Friendship and Poetry in Motion

By Mason Masotta; For the Clock
On October 21, 2017

                                     (L to R: Ahl and Yannone)                   Courtesy Photo

The Frost house, which is a haven for English majors (as the annual department socials and game nights are held there), has long been a reminder of not only the renowned poet it gains its name from, but also the camaraderie that binds the department that gathers there.

Following in suit with the themes of camaraderie and a passion for English and writing, the Frost house has, yet again, been the site of a public display of both.

On October 16, the creative and warm friendship between poet and teacher from Evergreen State College (in Olympia, WA) Sandy Yannone and PSU English professor and poet Liz Ahl was displayed via a unique exchange. The poetry-fueled event was entitled “Give and Take and Give.”

The two friends met during their studies at Emerson College, both with a very strong passion for the literary arts. They have been poetic pen pals for years, feeding off of each other’s work, and responding to the poems they would receive from each other in the mail.

Yannone and Ahl shared their poetic gift giving idea to a packed room of thoughtful audience members, colleagues and friends.

Yannone is noted online for one of her most prominent recent works, “Requiem for Orlando.” The poem is a very touching reflection on the Pulse nightclub (which was located in Orlando, FL) shooting from June of 2016.

The first poem of the event read was by Ahl, and is the piece that had sparked the initial long-distance collaboration. It addressed her giving up smoking, and inspired a comical response that gave way to new kinds of potential for the pair. The exchange continued and evolved into increasingly serious topics, ranging from oatmeal to a very cosmic consideration of stars in the universe.

The poetic duo left no stone of emotion unturned, as they shared their tales and showed the depth of their relationship. At times, each poet read her own poem. At other times, they each read correlating lines from their poems, back and forth. Their pieces made the audience that filled the Frost house laugh, tear up and reflect on some of the most significant personal and national events of the last few years.

After sharing their numerous works exchanged during the past, the two poets allowed the room a few questions on their writing and creative processes.

PSU's Frost House (Photo by Mason Masotta)

When asked about who the intended reader was when the two would write the pieces, Yannone said, “That’s a really interesting question! It started out being written as a direct response to Liz’s work, but that kind of changed over time. We used this as an opportunity to come out of our comfort zones. We weren’t judging each other’s work; we were really just taking them [the poems] as rough as they were when we got them.”

Another audience member asked if there was pressure after reading the other’s very personal poem to respond in kind. In response, Ahl said, “Yeah, it was like we were receiving a gift from the other. There was, at times, a pressure. Like, umm…how do I compare to that?!”

What may be considered the most important question on everyone’s mind by the end of the night was whether or not the two published poets would take this collection and make a full book of poetry about it. Both poets said that the idea had not been discussed, but was possible.

The event concluded, and Yannone sold and signed copies of her new poetry book, entitled “Maiden Voyage,” which is available now.

This is not the first time that Professor Ahl’s passion for poetry has brought a talented artist to campus to share their work. Recently, New Hampshire poet Jenna Le read her poetry in the Silver Center for the Arts, as part of the Eagle Pond Authors’ Series.

On November 7, the next featured poet in the series, Jenny Johnson, will be reading her work in the Silver Center.

Check out upcoming Silver Center events here:



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