Aetna Celebration of Student Writing

Aetna Celebration of Student Writing

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Aetna Celebration of Student Writing will take place on Tuesday, April 30 (3:00 – 6:30 PM), Wilbur Cross North Reading Room.

For the Aetna Freshman Writing Prize — and poster presentations at the Celebration itself — we’re accepting student writing completed during any term from Summer 2018, Fall 2018, or Spring 2019.

Further information on the Aetna Celebration of Student Writing & Poster Fair is also available at the Aetna Chair’s website.

To give you a better idea of what such a poster fair/celebration looks like, you can also see a short video of last year’s Celebration of Student Writing & Poster fair.

Mary Burke: “Pagan Parcels”

Mary Burke:  “Pagan parcels”: Tom Murphy’s drama and the Tuam Mother and Baby Home Mass Grave”

The research that recently uncovered the unmarked and unregistered remains of hundreds of infants in an underground septic system on the former site of St. Mary’s religious-run institution for unmarried mothers in Tuam, County Galway (1925-61) was spurred by (inaccurate) local rumor of it as a ‘lisheen,’ or unconsecrated burial site for stillborns. The rarely-discussed ‘lisheen’ was a folk response to Catholic doctrine that the unbaptized could not be buried in consecrated ground and was practiced into the 1950s in alternative ‘sacred’ sites (e.g. ‘pagan’ forts). Playwright Tom Murphy was born in 1935 in St. Mary’s vicinity and emigrated in 1962, a near overlap with that institution’s years of operation. Murphy’s plays with Tuam settings are read for coded traces of these two quasi-secret containment regimes: Tuam’s church and state-endorsed carceral infrastructure for unmarried mothers alongside its potentially subversive lisheen custom, which arguably allowed women to circumvent the doctrinal rigidities that produced that carceral infrastructure.

Burke’s talk will read the drama of Tuam playwright Tom Murphy for coded references to both lisheens (the local folk practice of unconsecrated burial sites for stillborns) and the recently-uncovered mass grave containing the unregistered remains of infants in the town’s former institution for unmarried mothers.

Long River Review takes over the Benton

Third time’s the charm with the William Benton Museum of Art’s monthly “First Thursday at the Benton” event, this time in collaboration with the university’s literary magazine, Long River Review, and as usual, the Beanery Cafe. This semester, the Benton will be open until 8 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month. The April edition is the first this semester with the museum’s new art exhibit based on the HBO hit series, “Game of Thrones.”

The exhibition features 13 chairs “created by some of the key artists affiliated with the American Studio Furniture movement, the leader of which was Wendell Castle,” the description for the exhibition reads. The works on display are meant to question the balance of the chairs serving as functional pieces of furniture as opposed to pieces of fine art, and more specifically, showcase different interpretations of series’ author George R. R. Martin’s imagining of the Iron Throne, an integral part of the world.

In the cafe, the Beanery’s drink special of the night was 25 percent of all Italian sodas. They also hosted their usual Open Mic event, where students are able to show off their talents in instrumental music, song or poetry.

Upstairs, the Long River Review had taken over the exhibition area. The museum staff chose to use an I-Spy game to explore the exhibition. Previous activities included scavenger hunts and trivia questions. The Review hosted two rounds of Literary Trivia, including questions from classic novels such as “1984,” “The Great Gatsby,” “Frankenstein,” “Lord of the Flies” and countless others to keep bibliophiles occupied. I was lucky enough to win a Long River Review shirt in second while other winners collected tote bags.

“It’s been a lot of fun, I think, learning about how the literary process actually works,” Allison Rosaci, an eighth-semester English major, said about her time with the Long River Review. She serves as the Review’s Literary Events Coordinator. “The thing about the course is that it’s really front-loaded, where in the beginning, you’re reading all the submissions. I was on the non-fiction multimedia panel, so we didn’t get too swamped, but I would sometimes help out with fiction and poetry, because they got hundreds of submissions.”

The hands-on activity of the night was a DIY bookmark station, featuring piles of colorful scrapbook paper, washi tape, stamps and ribbon. My favorite feature of the night was the poems on demand, where you could request a poem on any topic or for any recipient, and a poem was written on the spot with a vintage typewriter. I was able to chat with much of the staff as they typed me up a lovely poem for my roommate.

“I was involved last year as fiction year editor, and I decided to come back this year as editor in chief,” Brianna McNish, an eight-semester English major, said. She serves as co-Editor-in-Chief with Siobhan Dale. “It’s great that we’re forming this collaboration with the Benton. I feel like this a very innovative way to spread the word about the magazine. It’s a great way to reach to people.”

The Benton’s collaborations with student groups on campus have resonated well with members as well as with students, creating fun and innovative activities each and every “First Thursday.”

“The Benton first approached us and we got together to brainstorm a list of activities to do for tonight,” Rosaci explained. “We’re going to have our launch party partnered with the AETNA Celebration of Student Writing on April 30 in the Wilbur Cross North Reading Room. We’ll going to have some of our published writers and poets come in and read some of their work. We’re going to have food and we’re just going to kind of hang out and sell copies of the Long River Review for the year.”

–Hollie Lao, The Daily Campus, 5 April 2019

Hollie Lao is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at

Aetna Celebration of Creative Nonfiction

Emily Rapp Black is the author of Poster Child: A Memoir and The Still Point of the Turning World, which was a New York Times Bestseller, an Editor’s Pick, and a finalist for the PEN Center Literary Award in Nonfiction. A former Fulbright scholar, she was educated at Harvard University, Trinity College-Dublin, Saint Olaf College, and the University of Texas-Austin, where she was a James A. Michener Fellow in Fiction and Poetry. While at Harvard, she worked with the GLBT Speaker’s Foundation (SpeakOut), an organization that professionally trained speakers to tell their coming out stories in high schools, churches, and other public forums in an effort to increase awareness and understanding between the GLBT and straight communities.

Sponsored by the Aetna Chair of Writing and co-sponsored with the Creative Writing Program and the UConn Bookstore.

Prof. Emerita Margaret Gibson Named CT Poet Laureate

Congratulations to poet Margaret Gibson on her appointment as Connecticut’s Official State Poet Laureate.

Gibson becomes the state’s seventh poet laureate and succeeds Rennie McQuilkin, who served since 2015. The post is an honorary position, appointed by the Connecticut Office of the Arts, and serves as an advocacy for poetry and the literary arts. Poets laureate serve three-year terms.

Gibson is the author of 12 books of poetry, including “Not Hearing the Wood Thrush” and “The Unbroken Cup,” both of which were inspired by her late husband, the writer David McKain, and his fight against Alzheimer’s Disease. They are stunning works and certainly indicate why a selection committee would select Gibson for the honor.