Poet Meghan O’Rourke would be a creative writing student’s perception of what an ideal career in writing can really be. Being the culture editor for online magazine Slate, poetry editor for The Paris Review, as well as having her own recently published book of poetry, titled “Halflife,” O’Rourke has reached many high levels of success in her career. And all by the age of 31.
Considering her busy schedule, it might be assumed that the talented young writer has little time for much else outside of her work, but she was able to come by the College on Monday to give a reading to a crowd of eager students and faculty.
She started the reading with a few selections from her critically acclaimed debut set of poems, “Halflife.”
“My poor eye, it has done/so much looking,” O’Rourke read from “Meditations on a Moth,” the poem which opens “Halflife,” and such a statement seemed to be a theme carried throughout her reading.
O’Rourke also read from an eight-part poem titled “Two Sisters,” which details the anxiety experienced by a baby separated from her “phantom twin” during birth.
“I let go the hands of the one I slept with/the wind called, come quick, come quick/the days are loosening like sticks in the water,” she read.
The pieces selected for reading featured beautifully descriptive passages that managed to be both well-written yet very accessible to even the most casual of readers. The atmosphere of the reading seemed less like an academic setting and more like an intimate gathering, with O’Rourke giving personal quips and sidenotes pertaining to each poem.
“Now I’ll read from my series of unhappy love poems,” O’Rourke said. “Someone read them on my wedding day. My mother-in-law just rolled her eyes,” she joked.
After finishing a healthy selection of poems from “Halflife” and a few newer pieces, she answered some questions raised by the audience.
“It all comes down to whether you want someone to offer suggestions or just tell you that everything is great,” she responded to a student question about the difficulty in being both an editor who writes poems, and a writer who edits the work of others.
“90 percent of writing is frustration . but it’s an access to something you need,” she said.
The audience was warmfully receptive, with many younger writers being able to sympathize with O’Rourke’s down-to-Earth demeanor and poetry.
“Seeing her read was great,” senior secondary education and English major Nicole Gough, said. “It’s one thing to hear the way her poetry sounds in your own head, but to hear it spoken how it’s meant to be by the person who created it is amazing.”
All around, the event was another successful one in the Visiting Writers Series, with both the reader and the audience uniting over writing and its impact. And according to O’Rourke, writing is about letting yourself be vulnerable to the strange and unexplored, or as she said, “just to be held in the grips of something.”
Alyson Greenwood, president of Ink, was extremely pleased with O’Rourke’s performance.
“I was really impressed. I’ve heard her read before so I kind of knew what to expect, but the audience did a really good job of asking intelligent questions and she gave some great answers,” Greenwood said. “She was very insightful and deliberate. She didn’t give the typical ‘well, this is my writing process’ responses. I think anyone who was there that writes poetry or just simply appreciates it can take a lot away from what she said.”
Greenwood is working on putting together a transcript of the event for students who were unable to attend Monday’s reading.
According to Greenwood, Ink selected O’Rourke because her youth could act as an inspiration for aspiring writers here at the College.
“Her poems have been published so frequently and in so many high-profile publications. She’s very young and very successful, so we wanted to get her in here while she is still up-and-coming,” Greenwood said.