July 23, 2021

Chapbook Takes a Stand

By Catherine Pastoor ('21, Art & Life Editor)

Campus discussions about a diverse set of issues, from racism to climate change, flourish here at Gordon. In this dialectic context, the Idiom released its 2019 Chapbook with a February 27th reading at Chester’s Place. The theme of the Chapbook was essentially a collective outcry in the wake of the Ford-Kavanaugh case, and it was full of young women who expressed the familiarity of Kavanaugh’s attitude in his court hearing: “Your hungry mouth and open eyes/Are not unlike those I have seen before” reads the poem “Honorable” by Tori Arau.

The design of the Chapbook boldly proclaims its intent. The front and back of the book bear the iconic photo of an enraged Brett Kavanaugh defending himself. Behind him are five women looking from the front row, their expressions ranging from bewilderment to hostility. The poems and prose in the book are particular to the women who wrote them, but were effectively illustrated by these women at the hearing.

Other pieces did not refer to the nomination fight and instead contained accounts of individual experiences of sexual assault, varying from college to early childhood. All used different mediums to express their pain: repetition, free verse, short form, and long form.

Due to the nature of the reading, the audience was warned about the theme of the material; they were told that those who are repulsed by descriptions of sexual assault may want to leave. True to expectations, many unsettling thoughts surfaced as each student read their poem. The ease of misogyny. How it must annoy some men, hearing women make so much noise about a crime with no empirical evidence. How comedic it must be. How inescapable it is, even when joked about under the veil of irony. Taking this issue seriously as a man is a choice that will inevitably alienate peers. One male speaker took the time to articulate this during the open mic portion of the night.

The atmosphere of the event was complicated, as any public announcement of trauma and resentment is ought to be. Attendance was sparse, and every poem received tepid snaps. It could be easy to think the event was forgettable. And yet for victims, this event bolstered convictions. Every small platform is a stepping stone for a bigger one.

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