Reading Art: Boiler Room Reading Series

By: Jocelyn James

boiler room

Students and professors gather for the Boiler Room Reading Series. (Ryan Bronaugh-reader, Christina Norton-technical assistant, Bill Thompson-reader, Sandra Sepaniak-reader)

A silence took over the room, every eye staring at the podium. The audience, attentive and engrossed by each speaker, sat quietly listening. Short stories and poetry enchanted the air. The readers of the Boiler Room on March 6th stole each person’s attention and refused to let go.

Sandra Sepaniak, a WIU senior with a double major in Journalism and Spanish, was the first to share. She stood confident and bold reading her original piece entitled “Black Hole.” The story focused on a young girl’s struggle after finding a tumor within her breast. Within her short story, Sepaniak emphasized the young adult’s ability to die. “College students often think they’re invincible, that nothing bad can ever happen to them…I’d never been faced with the fact that one day I am going to die,” stated the twenty-one year old narrator. As Sepaniak spoke, her projection, inflection and tone allowed her audience to feel, understand and empathize with the narrator’s struggles.

Following Sepaniak was the voice of Ryan Bronaugh, a second year English and Journalism graduate student here at WIU. Like Sepaniak, Bronaugh was able to captivate everyone in ear shot through his original story, “Where I Am.” Much shorter than Sepaniak’s, Bronaugh’s first person narrative focuses on the experiences of a military personnel. The story begins with graceful imagery of the narrator’s daughter, describing her beautiful short blonde hair and big blue eyes. Bronaugh then transitions into a scene in which the main character prepares others for deployment. The main character then encounters a man, anxious to get his first kill. He sees a picture of the man and his mother on his pack. He then states, “…your mother is the only woman in this world who will probably ever love you, you will want to be able to look her in the eyes when we get home.” Despite the short length, Bronaugh was still able to gather emotion from his listeners through his naturally composed dialectic and precise, concrete details.

To conclude the Boiler Room readings, WIU Professor William “Bill” Thompson delivered a series of poems. These include “November Dialect,” “The Question” and “Course Description.” While reading “November Dialect” Thompson employed distinctly different voices to characterize the two speakers of the poem who discuss the month. “The Question” taking a droll voice, follows a woman who is put on a quest to find who was a better dancer, a bishop she encounters or the devil. The composing of “Course Description” sprang from Thompson analyzing literature course descriptions. Thompson compiled them into one document and began pinpoint reoccurring terms or phrases. The result of that was the formation of a comical, witty poem. Unlike the student readers, Bill provided the audience with some humorous pieces, giving the Boiler Room a bit of diversity.

According to John Schulze, one of the coordinators of the Boiler Room Series, “A reading is perfomative. The first time you do it you might have your head down, looking at your paper and not the audience but after a few times, you know how to read ahead a bit, make eye contact and keep people engaged in the story.” Schulze believes the Boiler Room Series allows students, who wish to pursue careers in creative writing, to get experience sharing their pieces and also to see faculty, who have experience in readings, perform as well. Regarding the readers on March 6th, the creative writing students of WIU are well on their way.