Logan Boehler stood before a crowd of about 30 Emerson students with a spotlight shining brightly on his face and his first spoken word poem in hand. As his piece came to a close, he read its last line, revealing the underlying metaphor of his work.
“Until they pry you from my cold rotted bookshelves, I’m going to read promiscuously,” he said.
Boehler, a freshman writing, literature, and publishing major, was one of a dozen performers at an open mic night last Tuesday in the Multipurpose Room. The event was held by the Undergraduate Students for Publishing Club, put on as a part of the celebration of Banned Books Week. The open mic was one of three installments in the series and provided any Emerson student, regardless of major, the opportunity to read poetry or sing songs related, but not limited, to censorship.
Banned Books Week, an annual national campaign designed to celebrate the freedom to read, is sponsored by the American Library Association. For the past three years, Pub Club has organized programs aimed to bring awareness to Emerson, said club Co-President Ross Wagenhofer.
“I think the most of us can say that we’re pretty anti-censorship of books and literature in general, so we just want to celebrate that,” said Wagenhofer, a senior writing, literature, and publishing major.
Boehler said the open mic night was successful in bringing together a community of people who are against restrictions on literature and letting them speak out on the subject. He said his poem was inspired by the motto of Banned Books Week at Emerson — “read promiscuously”— which allowed him to draw a parallel between sexual promiscuity and the risqué literature that is often considered vulgar.
“I was referring to the authors of some of my favorite banned books, and referring to them as lovers, and talking about them in a very sexualized manner until the very end, when I was supposed to reveal that they were books,” he said.
Marissa Fritz, a sophomore writing, literature, and publishing major, sang and played the guitar at the event. She said she decided to perform because of her combined desire to play at an open mic and her interest in Pub Club. Fritz said that not only did she support the cause, but the open mic also gave her an opportunity to share her music. Fritz sang a cover of the Regina Spektor song “Us” as well as one of her original compositions.
“It was a really calm audience, so I felt like I could just do my thing and not feel so much pressure,” Fritz said.
Co-President of Pub Club Marisa Finkelstein, a senior writing, literature, and publishing major, said that one of the goals of holding the open mic and having the club is to foster creativity and encourage expression.
“It’s about freedom of expression and getting a reaction from the crowd or getting it off your chest,” Finkelstein said. “A lot of what we heard tonight comes from the heart, and it really shows.”
Banned Books Week also featured a screening of the film adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray, which 15 Emerson students attended.
“It’s a controversial book by a controversial writer,” Wagenhofer said. “Its been banned in the past and challenged here and there. Oscar Wilde, obviously, famously, was put to jail for his homosexuality. So it’s just a celebration of a pretty famous banned book.”
The week was capped off with a photo contest. Participants emailed or posted pictures to Pinterest of themselves reading in “unusual and creative” positions and situations, using the hashtag #readpromiscuously, according to Finkelstein. The winner, Erin Sinnott, a senior writing, literature, and publishing major, was given a hard copy set of The Giver trilogy, said Finkelstein.
Though the events of Banned Books Week was not heavily attended, Finkelstein said that Pub Club still achieved its goal for the series, though it hopes to draw more attention to the festivities next year.
“Banned Books Week is about expressing oneself and celebrating the wonderful history of literature,” Finkelstein said, “which is something we achieved with a crowd no matter the size.”