Chasing Dreams and Writing Poetry

SALEM, Mass., September 30, 2016 — On September 29, 2016, poet Keith Leonard and Professor Regina Flynn both read from their work in the Martin Luther King room of the Ellison Building at Salem State University. Both speakers spoke about personal life experiences and how they impacted their lives forever.

Poet Keith Leonard shares excerpts of his poetry on Sept. 19, 2016, in the Ellison Building’s Martin Luther King room at Salem State University. His warm smile and uplifting humor left the audience laughing and inspired. Photo: Amanda Rosa.

Coordinator of SSU’s Creative Writing department at SSU Professor J.D. Scrimgeour introduced the first speaker of the night, an extremely enthusiastic and excitable Leonard. Leonard attended a SSU poetry seminar when he was an undergraduate student and has always had a creative mind that would take over his life, he said. When he was working at Trader Joe’s, his manager assigned him to the backroom, and Leonard took this as an opportunity to memorize poetry.

Leonard told the room that when and his wife had their first baby, his life was forever changed. He thought differently, and in turn, wrote in a whole new way. Instead of slow flowing poems, he said that he believes his poems are now full of life and are as fluid and exciting just like his life had become. The birth of his child, and birth in general, fascinate him still.

“This is a poem about birth again, because birth is amazing — a human came out of a human. That’s not part of the poem — it’s just amazing,” said Leonard as he introduced his next poem.

Leonard’s life revolves mostly around his family and poetry; it’s clear in the way he talks about both. His warm smile fills the room.

Next up to the podium was Professor Regina Flynn. The long-time SSU professor went on what she said was a life-changing journey — the Camino of Santiago in Spain–and wrote about it during and after the journey, producing a non-fiction piece of work full of color and culture.

“For ten days of walking, I didn’t hear a single cell-phone,” Flynn said.

After many foot issues and surgeries, Flynn knew she had to live out her dream and take this journey. And as she walked by the large sign hanging from the Madrid City Hall that read, “Refugees Welcome,” she felt as though she made a wonderful decision. The culture was much different from what she was used to but she enjoyed every bit of it.

Flynn said that it was as if each day there were new things to experience on her trip. She urges her students to turn their phones off and walk to just completely be submerged in the world around them like she was on her journey. Flynn explained how she hopes people take their headphones out and listen to the birds’ songs instead.

After the speakers were through, Laura Smith and Karen Gahagan who were in the audience shared how they felt about the speaking.

“I was delighted by the poems, they were original and fresh. The strong emotions and images really resonated,” said Smith, a professor of foundations of writing and business writing at SSU.

Gahagan has worked with both speakers. She is the Director of the Center for Creative and Performing Arts.

“I’ve never heard the story or piece of Regina’s writing. She inspired me to want to go out walking. And it’s so interesting to see what Keith [Leonard] has grown into. It’s exciting to see what their [alumni] into,” said Gahagan.

An audience starts to fill the Martin Luther King room in the Ellison Building at Salem State University Sept. 19, 2016 to hear the writings of Regina Flynn and Keith Leonard. The audience members are talking amongst each other about what classes they are there for, and why they wanted to attend the event. Photo: Amanda Rosa.
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