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Harvest Reading


Stephanie Spector

While the rest of Roanoke College was scrambling to dig their forks and knives into the Commons’ Thanksgiving feast, I was quietly tucked away in the basement of Miller Hall. The space was bustling with some 30 or 40 people. Some were seated in chairs, some gathered around a table of refreshments, and others leaned against the wall, chatting casually, programs and strudel in hand. I picked a seat at the corner of the room and looked around for a familiar face. There were a couple of students from Rhetoric class and a friend from my hall. In my daydreaming it was then that I noticed, beside the table of fruit and baked goods, a cardboard box. It read:

            Deposit canned goods here for the Southwestern Virginia Second Harvest Food Bank

Roanoke College’s Annual Harvest Reading is a celebration of literature and the spirit of the Thanksgiving season. This year’s reading was an exciting one. Several talented Roanoke College students shared their own prose and poetry with their peers and professors. The works they shared ranged from the hushed and personal to the downright witty and bold. Many had used small writings they wrote for class as reading material, but there were also a handful that shared works composed on their own time. Every reader received the warmest reception from the audience. At times that meant hushed, respectful silence where the more serious poems called for it. At other moments, boisterous laughter for all the best punch lines.

There were 10-12 student readers, and each one brought something truly special to the table. This was by far my favorite part about the Harvest Reading: seeing the readers deliver the poems in their own, unique ways. Some read quietly behind the podium. Others planted themselves right in front us and read — shouted, even — their works, occasionally doing a bit of flailing in an attempt to convey the raw emotion that had gone into the writing the piece. I admired everyone for their courage; public speaking doesn’t come easily for many. Among my favorite readings was freshman Hannah Bridges’ colorful poem “Elephant Sari” for its imagery and graceful style.

Faculty members joined in on the reading as well. English professor Dr. Mike Heller shared his poem called “My First Parachute Jump”. In it, he called the experience “another way of letting go, another kind of landing”. He has the perfect, soothing reading voice. He portrayed his fear and anxiety and the rush of “too much falling” all too well — so much so, in fact, that by the end of the poem, his words had me reconsidering my plans to go skydiving next summer.

Dr. Paul Hanstedt, also of the English department, concluded the readings. He shared an excerpt from his book “Hong Konged”, an account of his experiences living in Hong Kong, China with his wife and three kids. In his excerpt, he details how he tries to feed noodles to his then two year-old son Jamie. When Jamie resists, crying out that the noodle is “Too hot!”, commotion ensues in the marketplace. The audience doubled over in laughter — myself included — making it the perfect ending to the night.

All in all, the reading was a great success. None of it would have been possible without the help of On Concept’s Edge, Roanoke College’s Literary Magazine, the English department, and, of course, the student and faculty readers who volunteered to share a little piece of themselves that night. What made the event truly special, however, was that little box beside refreshments, sitting so idly against the wall. It was this box that had brought us together for the Harvest Reading — this box that would help so many who are without this Thanksgiving. This holiday season don’t forget to spread the cheer with those who need it most.


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