The Boiler Room: A Welcome Break From Reality


Cass Litle, Lucas Marshall, Jo Chapman, and Natasha Morgan shared their writing at the Boiler Room Reading Series

By: Haley Helgesen

In a quiet, white room punctuated by evocative artworks and photographs, a continuous conversation is occurring. A conversation about a communal and overwhelming passion for words, verse, story, prose, narration and literature; this is the Boiler Room Reading series. It is not often enough that English students are able to immerse themselves within their study outside of academia, often feeling too inundated with assignments and scholarships to enjoy the very passions that led them to study English in the first place. However, taking time to reaffirm the sense of camaraderie and community with fellow classmates and professors is an instantaneous way to remind yourself of why it is you work tirelessly to understand your craft.  English Assistant Professor Barbara Harroun and English Professor Rebecca Buchanan have effectively created an atmosphere for such an undertaking, encouraging monthly readers and artists to share their works and studies among peers and professionals. November’s series featured readings from Natasha Morgan, Jo Chapman, Lucas Marshall and Cass Litle.

Natasha, a senior undergraduate, started off the series with original poetry readings. Despite it being her first time presenting at the Boiler Room series, she held the practiced poise and confidence of an established veteran. Her piece about the passing of her beloved cat Sushi struck a tender cord with everyone in attendance, all present seemingly able to relate with similar experiences themselves. One of the other pieces entitled “Black and White” was similarly chilling and discussed racial expectations and behaviors. It was a fantastic talent to begin the series.

Lucas Marshall, a graduate student, also chose to narrate some of his original poetry. Though he had many impressive pieces, his piece entitled “Deadlines” was particularly compelling. His delivery powerful, deliberate and emphatic; the message, engaging.  He spoke of a world dictated not by the confines of time, but of expectation, deadlines, and an ever-decreasing sense of freedom.  Not only was the piece situationally relevant, but it also managed to imitate shared feelings of anxiety and stress no doubt everyone in the room had experienced before.

Jo Chapman, a graduate student, recounted a touching story about Catalonian gentlemen and the moments we wish we could get back, or the decisions we could remake. What was profound about the story was the delicate way in which she explained the simple beauty of Spain and the fleeting moments that we take for granted. The passionate and enchanting reading captivated the audience with rapt fascination.

Cass Litle, featured instructor, captivated the room with a sincere and heart-wrenching story. Though he prefaced his piece as a nuanced foray into creative nonfiction, it was nothing short of monumental. His story spoke of death, miscarriages, the impermanence of life and the associative feelings of grief. His reading–tender, careful and vulnerable–emphasized the rawness of the piece. The manifestation of emotion within the piece and the accompanying oration, managed to provoke many of the audience members to tears.

Overall, the night was a welcome reprieve from the demanding world of academia and obligation. It was a night of camaraderie and celebration. It was an emotional whirlwind with high and lows, but it was at the very end, when standing amidst a sea of smiling colleagues and professors, while eating a homemade cookie, that I was reminded why it is I love what I do, and that is an irreplaceable feeling.