On Tuesday, October 18, Naomi Ayala visited Marymount for a craft talk and poetry reading. She spoke with students about her own personal experiences as an immigrant and read poetry from Wild Animals on the Moon (1997), This Side of Early (2008), and Calling Home: Praise Songs and Incantations (2013). Ayala is the recipient of several Artists Fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Special Recognition for Community Service from the U.S. Congress, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy of Environmental Justice Award; this was her second visit to Marymount’s campus.
Layo Harris, a student in Professor Porter’s American Multicultural Literature course, introduced the poet and read some of the class’s responses to Ayala’s work.
During the reading, Ayala discussed the themes of immigration, poverty, and struggle present in her poems. She also spoke about the use of writing to confront adversity or pain and move beyond it, to begin the process of healing and thus become who we were meant to be in spite of the traumas we have experienced. She spoke of people who had incredible challenges in their lives and could “still sing at the end of the day,” of how she finds “beauty everywhere, even where there is great difficulty.”
One student asked about her view of the American dream, particularly in light of the current political climate, and she responded that we shouldn’t dismiss or denigrate the dream. We need to acknowledge what we have so that we don’t misuse it, she said, and she added that the hope the dream holds out helps keep people moving forward so that they and their children can reach a better place. She indicated that we need to be aware of the failings of the dream, but that instead of turning our backs on it, we should keep working to broaden its perspective and make sure it can accommodate more.
Ayala continued her conversations with the audience at the book signing that followed the reading.
The event was attended by over a hundred students and community members and made a powerful impact on the Marymount campus. Many students remarked how much they related to both Ayala’s poetry and her discussion, and they were grateful to have had the chance to hear her speak.