Poetry, Story Telling, and Reflection

with Elizabeth Acevedo


Elizabeth Acevedo

Amie Daniel, Staff Writer

Students and staff enjoyed an afternoon with New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo Thursday, March 7th in Monteabaro Hall. The event blended spoken word poetry, excerpts of her critically acclaimed novel Poet X, and poignant commentary on the Afro-Dominican experience and is part of the Women of Color Series sponsored by the Diversity Committee. New York native and proud daughter of Dominican immigrant parents, Elizabeth pours her rich culture into her work and unapologetically dismantles even the oftentimes invisible barriers within the academic and artistic worlds. A champion of diversity, Acevedo speaks openly of her struggles faced as a woman of color in higher education.

The event opened with the poem titled Rat Ode, a personal account of overcoming adversity and staying true to oneself. The work spawned from a disheartening experience in graduate school amongst a small cohort of students and a particularly misguided professor. The professor, an authority in poetry had a way of discrediting Acevedo’s experience (whether conscious or not) that she would simply would not stand for. When prompted to write an animal ode, she gleamed at the chance to highlight a familiar creature of her upbringing in New York; the rat. Told that rats are not worthy of poems, that she needed more experiences, that this creature does not belong in high art, Acevedo conjured the most epic “clap back”, cementing the majesty of the rat in poetic history. Her transition from reflecting on the experience that led her to write the piece to the jaw-dropping, heart-filling, awe-inspiring performance of the poem had everyone in the room on the edge of their seats. Rat Ode urges audiences to never be afraid to “write what you know”, and to know deep within that we are all worthy of poetry.

Readings from the highly praised Poet X rang melodically throughout the hall, connecting the audience to the tale’s young heroine Xiomara. Written entirely in verse, Acevedo’s debut novel sheds light on the Afro-Latina experience and coming of age with the oh so powerful tool of poetry as a means of survival, understanding oneself, and creative expression. The work brings to life the struggle of puberty and cultural implications of gender and race; something that is so needed in the young adult reading community.

Acevedo’s communication style can be described as approachable, uplifting, and incredibly authentic. The event flowed seamlessly, and time allowed for a Question and Answer segment before book signing and one on one meetings at the close. Audience members made clear their appreciation, sharing their own unique experiences of diversity, and asking for further insight into the field of writing from Acevedo. Members of the audience had the chance to win their own copy of Poet X and to have a personal inscription added after the event. The afternoon made for an expressive and inspiring way to re-discover personal motivations and served as a reminder to approach writing and academic work with integrity, no matter what obstacles lay ahead.