The next, and last, student poetry reading takes place in the Poetry Center of the library on Tuesday, April 1st at 6 in the evening. Before I began attending these readings, at some point in my sophomore year decided to put some slapdash poetry together. To my surprise one of my pieces was accepted into Suffolk’s own Venture Literary/Arts Magazine, and since then I’ve been writing, and writing, and writing and sharing those poems with the other students at these readings. Over the course of time (something I’ve seen in them as well) those students have seen, or rather, heard, the plethora of stylistic changes in my writing. Some people think it’s great; some people, well, it’s not their cup of tea. But I still go to the readings and read the pieces I write, trying to attend every one, even if it means trying to quickly polish a piece that I honestly feel isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.
These readings really are the community of Suffolk’s writers, which has grown into its own circle. There are many familiar faces coming to read the poetry they have written. This, however, really is not a bad thing for newcomers, believe me. Everyone was new to it at some point, I was new as well (and terrified, because well, it happens sometimes), some are still new, and still come to each one. Everyone is very accepting of anyone that attends and encourages nothing but growth in that little room.
Among the community are some avid writers: Dan, for instance, carrying through a keenly educated, yet fluid and spokenly poetic voice, then Corey, a fun skater with a big beard who writes about subjects from love to the traumas of the marathon bombings, and there’s Kayla, a poet who in my opinion has made great strides in her poetry over the past two years, and has since become a strong and formidable writer (writers by nature can get competitive, and seriously, everyone should feel threatened by her). There is also, of course, the organizer of the event, Matt Bancroft, now a Suffolk TA, writing poems on a variety of subjects with his own unique stylistic base of language and form.
I can say happily and with confidence that it has been a pleasure to read with them. One of the most interesting aspects of the readings is, as a person who has read over some of their work before, actually hearing them read at these events, hearing how their intonation and idiosyncratic, communicative syntax breathes more life into the poem than I would ever found just seeing it on paper. All of the authors above breathe that life into their own pieces from their speaking and open the bounds of language and the emotional aesthetic that truly exists in poetry. It is a true reminder of what poetry is: the music of language. Even my own reading has taught me much about the style of my writing.
Every writer at some point comes to a plateau where something feels stopped, ended, an opaque fog that covers the page as the words are either pressed or seemingly vanish into a somewhere and are left only in mind-fragments with the mental pollution that every writer has known, and will, perhaps, always know. Going to these readings helped me overcome one of my biggest episodes of this. I would plan to go as I had, but I was feeling as if I couldn’t write and I could only think, repeatedly, what can I do? What can I actually do?
My answer was how it would sound when I read it. I went through the pieces I was to read and began reading them out loud to myself, and discovered that the syntax on the page is virtually always different from the syntax of a poem itself, the music of it, as it is read out loud. It was then I came to another transformation in style, and realized that poetry isn’t meant to just be read, but exists in its innate form as something to be heard. This is how I made my poetry, and if I hadn’t gone to these readings, I never would have discovered this. I might have been trapped in that fog for a while. If I hadn’t, I might still be trapped in it.
And that’s why I go. It’s the growth of form, but so much more than that. It’s the other poets, more poetry, more writing, more words, more styles, more moods, and more of what it is to live, and truly live the human experience. There isn’t anyone who can’t attend, there isn’t anyone who shouldn’t attend, as everyone will get the same respect, and everyone can learn and expand the bounds of their writing and their world. It’s there one of my favorite aspects of these readings lies: to see someone I have never seen before, watch him go to the small podium in the Poetry Center that hangs over the cemetery, and hear a formation of words I have never heard. If you go, you may be surprised. Even new writers who have only written a couple pieces can send a silence through the room paved in chairs and background of the small, ornate library. They also send smiles, and laughs through the cracks of the double doors. But every writer gives something, and any poet would be mistaken not to attend. Tuesday, April 1st in the Poetry Center. 6 PM. It’s no April Fools’ joke: if you write, want to write, or just like writing in itself, it’s great to see some faces around there.
CLAS Peer Tutor
Lately I’ve been noticing things that I have never noticed before. Taking a step back from my life and observing friends and peers has shown me a whole new realization about memory, the brain, and how “focusing on your studies” can actually be harmful in the long run.
Balancing school with extracurricular activities is definitely a hard task to take on, but my class work has improved in a variety of ways by filling my schedule and immersing myself into clubs and a job. Currently I am a sophomore studying Interior Design, a tutor at the Center for Learning and Academic Success, and a dancer on W!cked hip hop team. What I have realized from balancing these three parts of my life is that the choreography I have to memorize exercises my brain in ways the classroom doesn’t. Because of the memorization that I am doing for dance, my retention of software and tools that I use every day in my interior design courses and tutoring sessions, I have noticed, has become stronger.
While this may not be an ideal schedule for some students, they should still consider doing something in order to keep their brain working and healthy in all areas. As a tutor, the most common problem I see is the retention of tools and software from class to class and even semester to semester. If students spend a few hours a week working in outside activities, even puzzles or taking a walk, we all could improve the power of our brain and even our grades. Students might consider joining a group such as a dance team, a musical, or even a sports team to help improve their memory and work different areas of their brain. Consider the options, even if it means you’re doing puzzles on T.
Being well-rounded and training your brain in more than one area can help you out in more ways than you think. Growth doesn’t happen by just focusing on one area of your life; it happens when you expand your horizons and develop your knowledge of the world around you.
-Mariah Couture, Tutor
"This past week I flew with a small group of students to Meridian, Mississippi to spend a week working with Habitat for Humanity. I was able do this through Suffolk’s Alternative Spring Break program, which encourages students to address issues in the greater community, including community development, human rights, and environmental conservation. The trip to Meridian focused on restoring the home of an elderly man, while exposing all of us on the trip to a new culture and new people. In a whirlwind of sweet tea, deep fried everything, and community service, this week opened my eyes to the abject poverty that exists here in the United States. I learned that Mr. Henderson, the homeowner, had lived in his home for over 45 years and raised five children there. Through learning about the loss of his wife, meeting his cousins, and discussing his plans to visit Boston 70 years in the making, I came to respect and understand the lifestyle of this complete stranger. This trip also introduced me to some students at Suffolk I had never encountered before, and it brought me closer to the ones I knew only through class. We were such a diverse and dynamic group, but together we were able to have amazing conversations and make connections we plan to sustain through Tuesday lunch dates. My trip to Mississippi has undoubtably become a highlight of my Suffolk experience, and it is an experience I would recommend to anyone willing to spend a week on an air mattress. " -Mia Knausenberger, Tutor
"I went to Denver Colorado. My group worked with habitat for humanity to build homes for those who cannot afford it. Our work was to do the dry wall for four amazing days. I have learned so much about myself and those who were with me. I have seen how giving back can make people so happy and become close friends. I learned that our happiness depends on others and if we make other people happy we become happy. All the volunteers I met were so happy in what they were doing and they believe in the oneness of people. One of the most thoughtful lessons I have learned is that the best way to help is to give people a hand up not a hand out and therefore we have a moral obligation to those around us." Cherno Jallow, Tutor
"This is my second year being a part of Suffolk’s Alternative Spring Break program, but this year I had the honor of leading our trip to Philadelphia. The Philly ASB trip is unlike any of the others – rather than working with Habitat for Humanity or other similar organizations, my group got a chance to work with an array of organizations in the city, all of which work to help the city’s LGBTQ community. It’s tough to organize, but once we’re in the city, it is an incredibly rewarding trip. We sorted donations and re-shelved the books in the Free Library’s Barbara Gittings Collection (a huge wall of all gay and lesbian books), collected healthcare enrollment cards out on the street to help Equality Pennsylvania, sorted clothes at Philly AIDS Thrift (all proceeds go to the AIDS Fund – their goal is $1 million!), and packed safe-sex kits at the Mazzoni Center. Alongside the service work, we visited an awesome place called the Attic Youth Center, a safe space with tons of after school programs for LGBT teens, got tested for HIV and other STDs, visited the Eastern State Penitentiary, Rocky Steps, Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, and generally explored some of the best parts of the city and specifically the Gayborhood—including visiting one of the oldest gay/lesbian book stores in the country. It was a jam-packed but amazing week. I gained a lot of valuable leadership experience that I didn’t quite expect—I appreciate the power of delegation and trusting the people I’m leading, and I appreciate the importance of careful organization and planning. In our nightly reflections, my group also opened me up to new perspectives on service and what it means to do it when you don’t get a lot of praise or even that warm fuzzy feeling people always talk about. I was lucky to have an absolutely incredible co-leader, pair of facilitators, and group of 10 participants by my side for the week. This trip was truly the highlight of this academic year." Aubrey Bryan, Tutor
You know the feeling: you have to write an essay, and you’re stuck. You stare at the assignment sheet, which seems impossibly long and confusing and full of strange demands. You stare at your blank screen. You look back at the assignment sheet. You look at the blank screen. Inspiration strikes! You write your name, the date, and “Essay Title.” Now you’re stuck again—a little voice suggests it’s time to look at Facebook…
All writers feel these “blank-screen blues” sometimes. Today, let’s talk about ways to fight them. They won’t necessarily make writing feel simple or easy, but they are guaranteed to banish that blank screen and get you on your way to revising and finishing your assignment.
Step #1—Understand the prompt
This one might seem obvious, but it can also be tricky. Prompts, like professors, come in many shapes and sizes. As such, they can pose a variety of challenges—some overwhelm with details, others seem vague about what the professor really wants. Here are a few rules to follow, regardless of the prompt:
1) Read, and re-read, every word carefully. Chances are, your professor has tried to state his or her expectations as clearly as possible. Highlight main points, number or order the instructions. Make it into a list of smaller tasks.
2) Put the assignment in your own words. “My paper should first do this, and then this,” “I must avoid this,” etc. This is an important step in mastering an assignment. Make sure you study the prompt closely before you paraphrase it, so that you don’t misunderstand it and head in the wrong direction.
3) If there are still things you don’t understand, ask your professor for clarification.
Step #2—Consider your topic
Almost all essays have two key parts: a question and a claim. Questions can be interpretive or research-based (or both), but they are always the “unknown” that your thesis will answer. Sometimes the specific question is built into the assignment for you—all you have to do is answer it. But quite often, you will be required to narrow the question, to define it in your own terms, or even to discover your question for yourself. Maybe it’s one of cause and effect--Why did something happen? What caused it?—or maybe you have to decide how something happened, or what something means. Whatever the assignment, take time before you write to carefully consider the question your essay will answer. Then you can start thinking about your thesis.
Here is where we set caution aside. A lot of the time we don’t know what we think until put some words on paper! It can help to gather your class notes, readings, professor’s comments, etc. Look them over to refresh your memory about your subject. Then start writing down thoughts. I like to use a separate bullet-point for each idea, and then decide later how they fit together. Don’t worry whether your ideas are good, or grammatically correct—just get as many thoughts as you can on paper. List things you could discuss, claims you might make, questions you have, related ideas—the more the merrier.
Step #4—Organize your ideas
Once you’ve broken down the assignment and have some ideas on paper, start reviewing what you’ve written. Underline, highlight, or put stars next to ideas you can use. Put an X next to stuff that looks like fluff. Pay particular attention to patterns or recurring ideas in your brainstorming. What points fit together? What ideas come up in different ways? These things can be “clues” pointing you towards a more specific, focused idea than you knew you had.
You’re almost ready to draft! The final step of preparation is to gather up your useful brainstorming ideas and organize them. There are different ways to do this:
1) An outline. The best way to organize is often to number your ideas in an order that makes sense. It’s good to experiment with different orderings, so that you can find a sequence of ideas that forms a clear argument. You can organize from strongest point to weakest, or from “most general” to “most specific,” or chronologically from “first” to “last.” The important thing is that you have a reason for your organization.
2) A storyboard. Some people prefer to draft from storyboards, because they allow more flexibility than an outline. In a storyboard, you put one main idea atop a blank page, and then fill that page with related points, evidence, quotes, etc. You can even leave some pages blank apart from the heading, if there are parts you know you are missing. As you develop your storyboard, you can move the pages around into whatever order makes the most sense. Because it doesn’t lock you into a specific order, a storyboard can be especially good for research papers.
Whatever form of organization you choose, the important thing is to think about how your points fit together to make an argument. Try writing a sentence explaining how two ideas are related to each other (i.e., how they are similar, different, connected, etc). That’s a transition! See which transitions make sense, and which feel forced. This way, you can start to consider the “big picture.” Your paper is already taking shape!
-Iain Bernhoft, Tutor
This Thursday marks the first day of spring, which means blue skies and sunny days are just around the corner. I personally am not only thankful that I’ll no longer be able to see my breath when I’m walking to class, but this also means that I can explore Boston once again. Winter is after all known to be the most depressing season because there are few outside activities to enjoy. In honor of spring, I’ve come up with fun things to do around Boston that are also friendly to your wallet.
Even if you don’t live in the Allston/Brighton area, I highly recommend getting on the B line and taking the thirty-minute trip down. Right on top of Summit Ave, in between Brookline and Brighton, is Corey Hill Park. The park itself isn’t that big, but there’s plenty of room to sprawl out on your beach towel and soak up some sun. Did I also mention the spectacular view? You can see the entire Boston skyline and you might even see the occasional turkey cross the sun tanners’ lawn. Also, if you’re like me, you’ll enjoy the fact that there is a playground with swings on the other side of the park. You can relive your youth by seeing who out of your friends can swing the highest. Besides soaking up the sun, I like to sit on the park bench and make friendship bracelets. I bet there are a few summer camp counselors out there who have made a friendship bracelet a time or two. If you’re into arts and crafts or you’re looking for a relaxing activity, then grab some embroidery floss from Walmart and try out some new patterns.
Check out my friendship bracelet from last summer:
Walking along the harbor is probably my favorite thing to do once the weather gets nice in Boston. They have big lawn chairs that are situated right in front of the ocean. I like to take a book there and read or watch the planes take off from Logan International. Or maybe you’re just looking to get a good tan. Whatever your preference, go explore the harbor. For a small sum of five bucks, you can also take a ferry ride over to the Charlestown Navy Yard. Did I also mention the free seals? If you’re like me and you don’t want to pay a hefty price for an admissions ticket into the aquarium, go see the seals instead. They’re fun to watch as they swim by you on their backs and even better, if you go at night, the tourists are gone and the seals are sitting up on the rocks.
Exploring Boston does not mean you have to spend a lot of money. Take a walk or a bike ride along the esplanade or hang out in the Harvard Yard. Pack a picnic lunch, grab a group of friends and take the ferry over to the Boston Harbor Islands. These activities involve little to no expense and you can enjoy a day out in the sun.
The Facebook event, beginning with an inviting “Join us for a fiction reading on Tuesday” heralded the opening of March fourth’s event hosted in Suffolk University’s Poetry Center. The readers, both gaining continuous acclaim, were authors James Scott and a previous fiction teacher at Suffolk, Laura Van Den Berg, whom I had the pleasure of getting to know during her course. The event gathered many of Suffolk’s writers, some listening and taking notes, as well as some of Suffolk University’s professors in the writing department, including Quentin Miller, Wyatt Bonikowski, who hosted the event, and Professor Fred Marchant, director of the creative writing department itself.
Bonikowski’s introduction began with the awards, acclaim, and publications each author had gathered throughout the years, with Scott having received awards from the Sewanee writers Institute, the New York State Summers Writers Institute, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, as well as others. Van Den Berg has achieved such recognition as being in the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, The Best American Nonrequired Reading (2008), and has her most recent collection of short stories, The Isle of Youth, from which she read, listed in Oprah’s spring reading section as one of the top ten books of 2013.
Scott began, reading selections from his novel The Kept, the story of a midwife and her young son before the turn of the twentieth century, who embark on a revenge plot to redress the murder of their family. His selection began simply, mixing in an intricate form of adjectives, action and plot, describing the protagonist, Elspeth Howell’s walk back to her house to find what had happened, jumping to the twelve year old Caleb, waiting in hiding with his gun pointed out a small nook in fear of the murderers’ return. In the third selection his soft, yet emphatic prosody continued while the silence of Elspeth and the twelve year old son were deafening as in almost a stupor wander Caleb finished his cigarette and tossed it into the river; a boy forced to grow up and become who he must too soon.
Laura Van Den Berg’s piece came with a different tone. “Acrobat” of The Isle of Youth, begins with the jarringly poignant, the unordinary expressed ordinarily: “The day my husband left me, I followed a trio of acrobats around the city of Paris.” She read in a bouncy and energetic voice, and introduced the piece in a similar way, saying “I will only read about half the story, because if I read the whole thing I’d have you here all night.” And the story is just that. On a trip to Paris to try to save their marriage (clearly unsuccessful), her husband leaves and she follows the group, watching them perform, and continues to follow them into a restaurant where at last they confront her and invite her to a party. The sparseness of her work evinces exactly what it must, where in her own words, the protagonist is always trying to push something away that she inevitably can’t. Both the work and her sometimes lively, sometimes calmed reading express this. The trio invites her to an acrobat party, and Van Den Berg ends in the stories middle, perhaps for suspense, fitting for a pause, or perhaps a part of her personality on only the door to the party where she “followed him inside.”
Knowing Laura Van Den Berg and the impression I had of James Scott from the reading and even beforehand, the question and answer segment was most interesting, to see the two next to each other laughing and telling stories, how Laura did not know much about and couldn't do the entirety of research on Antarctica as she had initially planned, but still wrote a story about it in her acclaimed book. And speaking of research, the biggest source for his historical fiction was, out of all things, a Sears Catalogue from the era. That was how he determined the many aspects of the novel, such as the style of clothing, house appliances, goods kept around the home, and even Caleb’s gun mentioned in one of the passages. One evening at a dinner party Scott attended, after the meal the host came back downstairs with a gun, and said “do you like it?” Scott was, well, silent, and the host continued “it’s the gun from your book, the one Caleb had” and Scott responded “well okay, is it loaded?”
Above all, the interesting aspect was their idiosyncrasies being exposed, as people. How James tends to shuffle and shift his weight when he reads, his sense of humor, or simply Laura’s buoyant personality. And they wrote about things as divorce and murder. Or the fact that Van Den Berg had said she did not know much about Antarctica, and a story entitled “Antarctica” is in her acclaimed collection. To continue passed what this means goes into the bounds of the intricacies of the human condition, the mind, and how they all infinitely intermingle with what literature is, and that’s what Suffolk has to offer.
CLAS Peer Tutor
It’s been a stressful couple of months, but spring break is finally here. If you’re anything like me, you can’t wait to sleep in past eight am. But the real wonder of having ten glorious days off means that I have time to read. Now I know what you are all thinking: why on earth would I want to read on my time off?! I know it sounds crazy, but when I’m not reading Freud or analyzing Oscar Wilde’s work, I do enjoy the occasional novel. There’s really nothing better than reading for pleasure and it’s actually a great way to de-stress. So in honor of Spring Break, I’ve put together a list for all of you readers out there that you can pack into your beach bag or save for the plane ride to your sunny destination.
Looking For Alaska by John Green: John Green is one of my favorite authors on the bookshelves right now. He might write about teenagers, but I guarantee college students will relate to the issues he talks about as well. Set in the narrative of a teenage boy named Miles, he decides to leave his hometown behind and attend a prestigious boarding school in Alabama. While there, he meets some colorful characters, including the spontaneous and illustrious, Alaska Young. John Green will have you reliving your teenage years as Miles and his gang of friends pull well thought out pranks, fall in love, experience loss, and learn the value of friendship.
Is Everyone Hanging Out With Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling: I pretty much idolized Mindy Kaling after reading her tell-all memoir. Not only did she portray Kelly Capore on The Office but she’s also a rather cool chick in real life. Kaling will take you through her childhood and what it was like to grow up as an Indian girl in Boston, how she gained an interest in comedy, and the tiny apartment she shared with her college roommates while they tried to make it big in New York City. I guarantee you’ll be laughing out loud as she shares the stories that made her famous today.
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult: Picoult writes the type of novels that you will start and finish in one day because you just can’t stop reading. You might have seen the movie that came out a few years back, but I guarantee you, the book is much better. Picoult writes about the difficult choices a family must make for their daughter who is suffering from a rare type of leukemia. She portrays the importance of sisterhood, the feeling of neglect, and a mother who would do anything for her children. This book deals with court cases and law suits, the ethics behind genetic planning, and the struggle to keep a family from falling apart
It’s Kind of A Funny Story by Ned Vizzini: This story might deal with depression, but it’s the least depressing novel you will read. Teenager Craig has been smart his whole life. When he gets into a prestigious school in New York City, he doesn’t know how to deal with the pressure of it all. Suddenly he finds little purpose in his life and checks himself into a psychiatric hospital. There, he meets patients that show him what life is really all about. Vizzini writes about touching stories with an added twist of humorous dialogue.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton: This is one of those hidden gems that you may have remembered reading in middle school. It’s a classic novel and once you read it, you’ll find new and creative ways to use the phrase, “Stay gold, pony boy.” Even though the novel is targeted towards the youth, it’s a pretty timeless story that you can appreciate at any age. Told in the voice of Ponyboy, he narrates the life of the greasers and their tumultuous relationship with the socs. This novel takes a dramatic turn after Ponyboy’s friend Johnny kills a soc and we learn exactly what it’s like to be a teenager living on the wrong side of the tracks.
The CLAS Blog was created with several purposes in mind: to serve as a resource for tutors and students alike, to be a creative outlet for CLAS employees, and to further engage and promote our services to the university. We would like for the blog to complement the services that we provide, creating a hub of helpful resources, such as tips and study skills that tutors use themselves. Beyond this, we will also seek to provide thoughtful, interesting, and relevant commentary on topics both inside and out of the world of academia.
Our vision is for this blog to become a lively center for the minds of Suffolk University to meet, and to facilitate the interactions between students inside and out of CLAS on a more personal level, going beyond the academic services CLAS provides. We hope to regularly post interesting content, and welcome feedback from any and all readers.
We asked some CLAS tutors and staff what CLAS means to them:
Jason (grad fellow): CLAS means helping Suffolk be better, and creating community.
Valerie Ryan (writing tutor): Tutoring makes me joyful.
Siobhan Sullivan (CR): CLAS is a great place for students, more than just a place to go for tutoring.
Fran (Reception Manager): Like the cartoon Voltron, they all come together and become one big thing. Or the Justice League. The unification of different services.