On Feb. 4, Poetry-in-the-Round hosted Asian American poet Sarah Gambito in the Faculty Lounge.
Gambito read excerpts from her most recent book, “Loves You,” which mixes recipes from her Filipino culture into poetry.
She received an invitation to read at Poetry-in-the-Round from series director Cara Adams. Adams, an assistant professor for the department of English, has been the director of Poetry-in-the-Round since 2017.
“Since taking over the directorship of the series from Dr. Oates, I’ve worked hard to both continue the series’ outstanding quality and reputation for featuring the best emerging and established writers at work today,” Adams said.
Adams said she strives to bring a diverse set of writers of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds as well as writers with distinct writing styles and aesthetics. She brings about six writers a year for the series, hosting three each semester.
“The mission of the series is to bring some of the best writers today to students,” Adams said. “It is a chance for students to hear these writer’s works performed in an intimate space.”
Adams said she chose Gambito to be a part of the series because she has admired and loved her most recent book of poetry, “Loves You.” Adams described Gambito’s latest work as rich and interesting for blending recipes about place and biography into striking poetry.
To introduce her work, Gambito stood behind the podium in the faculty lounge facing an audience of students and teachers and told the crowd that she would have liked to have the reading in a large banquet hall. She painted an image of the tables in the banquet draped with black tablecloths, arranged in a circular structure, where she read her work to the attendants and discussed it over a meal made from recipes in the book.
Gambito then asked the audience members to close their eyes as she began to read her poem, “Grace,” ushering in a meditation of saying grace to begin a meal. “In my family, the language of love was food,” Gambito said.
Gambito said her parents emigrated to America from the Philippines. Her identity as the child of immigrants and as an Asian American are tied heavily into her poetry. Her interest in poetry grew when she understood the power of language.
Gambito described an instance where she saw that she could show dominance over her parents by correcting their English, as she saw that her parents struggled with the language. She said she became interested in how to access that power in its most productive form and she found that in her poems.
“Language is power,” Gambito said. “You can either be defeated by it or empowered by it.” Some of the audience members commented on Gambito’s dynamic presence as a speaker and her apparent connectedness to her work as she read them.
“She’s very high energy,” Joshua Burlacu, a senior history major, said. “You could tell that she cared about what she was talking about.”
“There was a connection between the poem and the poet,” Diana Malenkova, a freshman biology major, said.
This was Malenkova’s first time attending a Poetry-in-the-Round. She said she was expecting a poet to just come read their work and speak about them, but Gambito’s readings were much more magnetic than that.
Malenkova said she felt that Gambito left an emotional connection to the listener and the reader with her poetry.
Malenkova said, “I wanted something that I felt was bringing people together, like a meal. In Gambito’s culture, she said the food was how they understood each other. She described the process of cooking as a labor of love and she felt the same sentiment writing the book.
Gambito said, “Poetry is not just words on paper. It’s a three-dimensional experience.”
Andrew Byrd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.