Introducing the Speak Easy!

Last night, Speaking Fellows unveiled their new podcast, “The Speakeasy” at a launch party / spoken word event / listening session. The event was covered by Writing Fellow and BWOG Editor Betsy Ladyzhets:

“Last night, the Speaking Fellows drew people into Altschul 903 with a fun atmosphere and free food, but then challenged us to consider the value of speech and its intersections in our lives. The launch event was, in a way, a physical reflection of the podcast itself – it draws you in with funky jazz music and then causes you to really stop and think about your position as a speaker and listener. All four episodes are free on iTunes, and I would definitely recommend that anyone at Columbia/Barnard should take a listen.”

Listen on iTunes or SoundCloud to the first four episodes!

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Repetition and the Transient Self

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by Ella Bartlett, Writing Fellow ’19

I watched this Spoken Word performance by Phil Kaye recently, but I first discovered it back in middle school. Watching it now and remembering how it affected me when I watched it 6 years ago was a meta-exercise for me. The poem itself is about repetition: how when you experience the same thing in two different points in your life (even if that is milliseconds later, like a repeated word), the experience changes.

Phil Kaye addresses his parent’s divorce:

“My mother taught me this trick: if you repeat something over and over again it loses its meaning. This became my favorite game, it made the sting of words evaporate–separation separation separation–see? Nothing.”

For Phil Kaye, repetition of this very heavy word made it more bearable for him, because, colloquially, it took away the punch. The word itself did not change, just his experience of it. I wonder what the word means to him, as a poet, now, 8 years after he wrote this poem. He– a listener/reader, the one who is experiencing the word— has changed states, ever so slightly, and that is what makes the meaning different.

In The Writer’s’ Process, we read Roland Barthes, who wrote about the dynamic between the author and the reader. He argues, “[The reader] is simply that someone who holds together in a single field all the traces by which the written text is constituted” (from Death of the Author, 1977). The author is dead, the words simply exist on the page, and the meaning arises from the reader.

When thinking about repetition, then, what does it mean for the same reader to experience the same thing over and over again? “Apart/apart/apart/apart” speaks Phil Kaye. To experience the word “apart” right now, and then experience it after three years and loneliness and straddling one’s self between two worlds of two parents—this is where the meaning of repetition comes from.

This is why I am going to make a point to reread books I haven’t read in a long time this summer, to hear poetry now that I haven’t heard since high school or experienced at a time in my life where I know I was a different person than I am now. The self is transient, and because it is, so is the meaning of a work of art.

Life as a Barnard Writing Fellow: Razia Sultana

Recently, one of the Writing Fellows, Razia Sultana, was featured on Her Campus talking about her experience in the Fellows program. Please check out this beautifully-written, inspiring account of why she chose to become a Fellow.

“I mean, critically thinking, empowering students, and fighting the patriarchy, are only a few of the many reasons of why someone should become a Writing Fellow, but for those of you who want a more substantial reason, it’s because you matter.

That’s right. I became a Writing Fellow because of all of you.

As a student at this premier liberal arts college, I am always fascinated by my fellow Barnard students who I come into contact with every day. Every student here has a unique story, an interesting perspective, and a different way of thinking. And so, I became a Writing Fellow because I wanted to learn more about Barnard students, from the Barnard students themselves.”

 

Debate Barnard’s Future

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Two weeks ago, on Thursday, April 13th, the Speaking Center hosted a debate to discuss the resolve, “Barnard’s next president should have experience in the corporate world.” The event featured two teams, each comprised of two debaters, discussing the values and background experience they hope to see in the next Barnard president. Hannah Seymour and Joanne Kim argued on behalf of the affirmative against Rosie Flatt and Talisa Jasmin Ramos on behalf of the negative. The affirmative team advocated for a president with corporate experience who would build on President Spar’s successful fundraising strategies, bolster our endowment, and propel Barnard towards a financially secure future. The negative team respectfully disagreed, espousing the idea that a president  of Barnard should come from the academic world in order to represent a comprehensive portrait of the school’s student body and its aspirations to increase diversity and inclusiveness on campus. Ultimately, the debaters and the spectators in the audience faced the question: should the president of Barnard be a “face” of the school, reflective of the students and ideas that bring life to our campus? Or, does the job seek someone who will operate behind the scenes and ensure that Barnard’s resources continue growing in the future? The event was not about the emergence of a single winning idea or argument, but rather the cultivation of skills that help women debate, discuss, argue, think critically, and express these thoughts. We hope that all those who attended the event enjoyed the opportunity to watch and participate in this exercise and look forward to similar events in the future!

If you would like to read more about the event, please check out the piece Bwog did on the debate.