By Gabriella Shriner / Editor
On April 30 Raritan Valley Community College welcomed published poet and author Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie as she spoke to students from several English classes in the Atrium. Originally scheduled in January, the reading was moved to late April due to a snowstorm.
Dominique Sindayiganza, Tallie’s agent, contacted RVCC to see if there was interest in the reading, which Charlie Bondhus responded to. Bondhus, who teaches English I and II classes that focus on social injustice, thought that Tallie’s visit would be a perfect fit to his class, as she is a poet who often discusses African American and women’s issues in her work. He then worked with Sindayiganza to set up the event.
The poetry reading was sponsored by the Office of Academic Affairs and by Eileen Abel, Vice President of Academic Affairs, who provided funding for the event. Roberta Harmon, the administrative assistant for the English, Humanities, and Social Sciences Departments, reserved and set up the Atrium to host Tallie.
Professor Bondhus introduced Tallie at the event to the students with a brief overview of her life and work, followed by Tallie reading an excerpt from her novella titled Talking with Strangers, in which a young woman named Sangria becomes pregnant for the first time. The event’s focus was on her poetry, which she mixed with prose and conversing with the audience. The event concluded with a Q & A session between Tallie and students. Following the reading, her newly published work of poems was available to students at a discounted price of $10.
Tallie, who uses her powerful voice to describe her status as a young, African American mother living in the modern world, hails from Queens, New York. Through her writing, she openly shares her thoughts and life experiences. Tallie has been writing poetry since the mid 90’s and has had her work published in an array of anthologies, literary journals and magazines. She travels frequently to events for readings and to promote her work.
Tallie’s poems are uniquely seasoned with love, a hint of southern flavor, a coating of despair and curiosity, and English students at RVCC were able to get a glimpse into her life.
When asked by a student to describe her creative process, Tallie said, “For the most part, it’s me feeling something. You start with a strong feeling, of something, and so I try to put whatever that thing is on the page. You’re not trying to be perfect; you’re just trying to get it on the page.”
In response to why he felt it is important for speakers to visit the RVCC campus and for students to attend the events, Bondhus said, “Students who attended got to see firsthand that poetry--good poetry--is still being written today. Though it's important for them to study the works of writers who lived tens, hundreds, or even thousands of years ago, it's also easy to lose sight of the fact that poetry is still a thing, and that it matters.”
To learn more about Tallie and to read her work, visit her website at www.ekeretallie.com.