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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

NER Out Loud makes a bold return after a three-year hiatus

NER Out Loud, a collaboration between the New England Review (NER), Oratory Now and the Mahaney Arts Center, returned on March 30 after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Students, faculty and community members gathered to watch Oratory Now students perform live readings from NER issues spanning the past three years. 

In the tradition of NPR’s “Selected Shorts,” NER Out Loud began with the aim of bringing pieces from the “New England Review” literary journal to life. Oratory Now — a student-driven program providing training in oral expression — became an avenue for students to present the pieces in a way that highlights their original themes while breathing new, personal meanings into each work.

Nine students shared the dance theater stage, each performing works across a variety of genres. Pieces included “Supernova” from NER Volume 43 No. 2, a short story by Kosiso Ugwueze who recently received NER’s Award for Emerging Writers, John Cotter’s monologue “Lemon Fresh” from NER 43.4 and Rosalie Moffett’s poem “Hysterosalpingography” from NER 43.1, among others.

Isaiah (Izzo) Lizardi ’25, an Oratory Now coach, performed Ajibola Lizardi’s poem “Commutative Properties of Black Bodies” originally published in NER 42.4. Lizardi spoke to the power of engaging with the poem and its resonance when performed aloud. 

“I was told the moment I picked up the poem it was one of the more complicated pieces. I had to be strong, certain, and vulnerable, but fragile and open-minded at the same time. I practiced and practiced with Dana Yeaton, and grew more comfortable with this hard topic and poem,” Lizardi said.

“I was passionate and honored to represent Oratory Now, Ajibola Tolase and people of color all around the world that honestly face problems like this on a day-to-day basis. I just wanted everyone to feel me a bit, to understand what it is like. Presenting this poem was bigger than me.”

Following readings by Oratory Now students, participants and audience members were invited to a “S’more Readings” reception, in which student writers were given the opportunity to share their own work over dessert and coffee. Students shared fresh works taking many forms in true New England Review fashion; its mission states that the publication strives to capture “[a] vital snapshot of the literary moment, four times a year, in its richness, complexity, and diversity.” Yardena Carmi ’23, a former NER intern, reflected on what it was like to read her poems in the NER Out Loud forum. 

“Sharing my work in such a supportive environment was a lovely experience. I remember going to the last NER Out Loud before Covid-19 during my freshman year and feeling very inspired by the creativity on display. Being able to attend again and hear talented student performers and writers, as well as read my own writing, was a fun little full-circle moment for me,” Carmi said. 

Founded in 1978 by Jay Parini, professor and author, and Sydney Lea, former Middlebury professor and Vermont Poet Laureate, the New England Review has gained notoriety as one of the top literary magazines in the country, named no. 4 by Every Writer in 2022. The quarterly, published by Middlebury College, offers students opportunities to enter the literary world through internship programs, student submissions reading groups, and events such as NER Out Loud and NER Front Row. 

On May 4, the New England Review will present NER Front Row, a reading series providing students the opportunity to engage with established writers. The event will begin with a student performance, followed by the author’s reading of the same piece and a conversation between the two, culminating in a broad Q&A moderated by NER editors. Jenn Shapland ’08, Middlebury alumna and National Book Award finalist, will be the featured author, reading from her latest book “Thin Skin.” The event will be held on Zoom at 8 p.m.

Students interested in participating in NER Front Row can contact NER managing editor Leslie Sainz for more information.