With a couple of tattoos and her wild red hair, Laura McCullough commanded the presence of building eight, room 110. The room was full of adults both young and old and some students even brought their children.
A full time instructor, McCullough read through several of her personal works with topics ranging from football to military recruiters. Neither white nor black, McCullough blended through the topics, creating grey areas and not taking sides while simultaneously taking a stand.
McCullough interacted easily with the room, making jokes and talking with each person who came up as if she had known them her entire life. When it came time for her to read her pieces, she quieted down and the entire room was all eyes on her.
McCullough described an experience she had in a limousine after one of her reading events.
“I ended up getting to know the driver,” McCullough said. “Before this job, he was a military recruiter. I asked questions like what was it like? Why? How do you feel about that?”
McCullough drew inspiration from this random driver and urged others to draw from other’s experiences as well.
“He talked about how recruiting changed his life, his children’s life, now his grandchildren’s life,” McCullough said. “He wanted to make the military work for other people. Has this changed my mind? No. It has made me more complex and I’m still unsure.”
McCullough went on to recite a politically charged piece entitled “Some Join the Military.” Peppered with profanity and thought-provoking questions, McCullough hit home with emotions like regret, guilt, sadness and anguish. It resonated with the deep and intense emotions people feel uncomfortable talking about, especially youth.
Ending the reading on that note, McCullough called for a Q&A followed by a book signing. Several students came down to talk to her, giving insight on how they felt after the reading, and McCullough passed along a few grains of wisdom on both life and writing.
When asked what advice she would give to new writers, McCullough said to read contemporary poetry and everyone else’s work, and then throw it out and write your own stuff.
McCullough spoke to several students and made a lasting impact.
“I loved how real she was. The issues and things she talked about, I haven’t heard something like that since Sylvia Plath,” student Ashleigh McVey said.
When asked if he enjoyed the reading, student Daniel Johnson was pleasantly surprised.
“I loved it,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect but when she got started, I loved the realism.”
By Alison Martin