Oxford writers compete in head-to-head literary contest

Posted on Oct 3 2018 - 5:50am by Jyesha Johnson

OUTGrads and the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies will hold a battle of literary talent called “BattleVerse: Icons OUTLoud” from 9-11 p.m. on Wednesday at Proud Larry’s.

This event will give writers of every level a chance to test their literary skills and will feature Matt Bondurant and Beth Ann Fennelly, who are both authors and UM English professors.

“BattleVerse: Icons OUTLoud” will consist of three 20-minute rounds of literary smackdowns in which participants will have 10 minutes to write from a given prompt in the midst of distractions, such as a drag makeover or a dance party on stage. After writing, they will be given 10 minutes to recite what they wrote. The audience will choose the winning writer of each round with a vote by applause.

“It’s supposed to be a fun, interactive evening that involves a lot of humor and a lot of community building, but it’s still surrounded by the creation of literature,” Fennelly said. “In this case, literature will actually be written on stage in real time in the course of the event, so it will be a cross between an evening of comedy and an evening of reading your favorite book.”

Fennelly said this event is expected to serve as a community builder for both the LGBTQ community and the Oxford community as a whole.

“I think a healthy community is a community in which all parts feel equally necessary to the whole,” Fennelly said. “And of course, traditionally in our country — and perhaps Mississippi in general — students who were gay weren’t encouraged to come out and weren’t celebrated and didn’t get to have gatherings in which they felt free and comfortable to be themselves.”

OUTGrads encourages Oxford locals and students to come out to a space that welcomes and encourages the LGBTQ community. KyMara Guidry, a law student, said she looks forward to coming to a space that allows her to enjoy the art of writing and feel comfortable in her sexuality.

“I’m always looking for LGBTQ-centered or inclusive spaces here in Oxford, since the town can be a bit isolating,” Guidry said. “Building and connecting with community is important for me as a black, gay woman in the Deep South. It’s essential in order for me to sustain myself.”

The evening will be centered around humor and fun, while highlighting communities that are not often recognized. Bondurant said the event is an opportunity for writers and the audience to relax and be themselves.

“It’s allowing everybody to have some fun and celebrate the diversity that exists on campus and in the community,” Bondurant said. “Maybe sometimes that diversity isn’t seen or heard from as much as it should (be).”

Sarah Heying, president of OUTGrads, said the group’s goal is to have frequent events where members of the LGBTQ community can come out and enjoy themselves. Heying said she hopes that “BattleVerse: OUTLoud” will broaden the narrative of the LGBTQ community in Oxford.

“This (event) helps reminds us that Southern narratives can also be fun, wacky … and wild, rather than have the ‘same old, same old’ that you hear over and over again,” Heying said.