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Stories unfold in four minutes

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This year’s first “Four Minute Reading,” held in the Ujamaa lounge on Monday, was a wonderful opportunity for developed and developing Stanford authors to showcase four minutes of their writing. A crowd of students, a sprinkling of creative writing teachers and a few intrigued passersby snacked on ample food and drink as they patiently awaited the performers.

The evening started off strong, with renowned Spoken Word poet Jamaica Osorio performing first. She originally planned to read four minutes of her short story about teen suicides, but she decided that would be a bit too depressing. Instead, she performed a piece about racial insensitivity, with controlled gestures and flawless intonation. Although not exactly cheery, her reading proved intensely captivating and rendered the audience breathless.

Next up was Samantha Toh ’11, a writer for The Daily, who read an empowering poem about self-awareness and acceptance. She described her physical features, denying them generic qualities and gifting them unique beauties.

Then Gabrielle Gulo ’12 read some of her short story, a devastating account of a girl learning about the death of her friend’s mother through a letter. Another emotionally charged reading, by Miranda Mammen ‘14, followed, with a first-person account by a daughter describing her mother’s appearance after a car accident, vividly detailing what she imagined the wrecked car must have looked like on the freeway, with its smashed groceries and responsibilities left undone.

In the interest of a good laugh, or a good dozen laughs, Claire Woodard ’12 read a poem that explored the moans and groans of next-door neighbors having acoustically driven sex. With a reference to John Lennon’s “Come Together,” and a climax detailing the divine lovemaking of an abbot, Woodard took her seat with a satisfied audience.

Willys Devoll ‘13 read a snippet of his short story about a crazed writer and his confused protégée discussing aesthetics and defecation during lunchtime. It was a thoughtful and humorous analysis of the written word and the dark corners it can lead one into. Helena Bonde ‘11 read a mixture of poetry and narrative about an elf lost and disoriented on an island, employing beautiful imagery while showcasing rhythmic prowess.

Frank Rodriguez ‘12 gave us a four-minute glimpse into his short story, a work based on Jack Kirby, the comic book artist behind Captain America. His descriptions, particularly of a loaded and ominous gun, were simply gut-wrenching. Chris Rurik ’11 followed with a piece that he had worked on just that day, on the subway, and a quick excerpt from a more developed work of fiction.

The event concluded with the beginning, “The Fall,” a poem about Adam and Eve by Jennifer Schaffer ’14, also a writer for The Daily. Her piece created a miniature Garden of Eden between two lovers, suspended in ecstatic love the morning after, eventually wrenched back to reality with the irritating cry of an alarm clock. And with that, the transcendent evening came to an end.