In an almost full Hayden Hall Auditorium, professor, poet and writer Jen McClanaghan kicked off the Major Authors Reading Series (MARS), presenting her last book, “River Legs” in front of students and teachers at Manhattan College. In a very charming and familiar way, McClanaghan read her favorite parts of her book and shared the anecdotes in which the poems are based.
“What should I do with this?” she asked to the audience with uncertainty about the place to put her bottle of water, showing that she was not the Edgar Allan Poe or Pablo Neruda that some claim her to be, just a simple and ordinary woman.
McClanaghan began with poems as “Miniature Pardons” that talked about the way she saw animals on a field trip. This showed in a perfect way what Dominika Wrozynski, assistant professor in the English department, identified in the introduction as the author’s personal signature of “taking the ordinary and converting it into extraordinary.”
“My Lie” and “One Red Look,” were also part of the initial set of texts that McClanaghan shared with the expectant group, emphasizing how coming though her forties is changing the way she sees life.
Reading the poem that gives name to the book, “River Legs,” McClanaghan recalled her trip to the border between Mexico and the United States. She presented the atrocities she saw in a crude but sensible way. As a closure, she commented that her intention was to read new verses and receive the first feedback but, just as other authors, the inspiration that night was not by her side.
After a successful and acclaimed lecture, McClanaghan answered some questions from students who were interested about her process of writing, the difficulties of a deadline and the pressure of meeting the expectations of her last material.
“Authors are people too,” says Jasmine Parks, a student who attended to the reading. “They’re not someone to be idealized, we can be like them, we can achieve the same things that they can achieve and, you know, it should take one time to sit down and write something and, to do it… and we can be over there [the podium].”
McClanaghan stayed a few more minutes in the room to answer last questions, give personal tips and sign a few copies of the book. Giving space to some of the students that approached her proved a theme of her whole lecture, “Writers have a normal life, and are people just as you and me.”