It wasn't quite rap, but when Trevien Stanger delivered his "poem/rant" to fellow graduating seniors last month at St. Michael's College, "I put some style into it," he says. Stanger isn't exactly sure how he got to be the student commencement speaker. "I'm an English major and a writer - I don't know, people thought I'd do a good job, I guess," he says modestly, adding that the class president nominated him. It might have helped that Stanger, 22, had a poem published in SMC's Onion River Review this spring; with some revisions, it formed the second half of his creative "speech."
The first half, Stanger explains, came together in the final week of school. "I spent a lot of time looking around, taking notes, being a passive observer at times," he says. "And also we did a booze cruise on The Spirit of Ethan Allen, and I asked people to write their first thought in my notebook to the question, 'What is college?' At the end of the night I had this long list."
Stanger suggests that most of the entries "were shooting for the same thing: that it was these subtle interactions with one another, and how much being in the environment of learning with each other amplified all our experiences." These fleeting images contributed to his final poem, and to the nearly punctuation-free, Kerouac-meets-Whitman flow of it. Here's a sample from the top:
and like that I crashed landed in college confused and amused at being so old and grown and away from home with its comforts of childhood memory and meaning, but here I was leaning in the open door of Joyce dorm looking out upon a late August 2001 day of new trees and possibilities upon these grounds and in the sounds of bustling freshmen behind me constructing new homes of their own, with all these personalities from different localities unpacking their clothes knit from the threads of the past and meeting and greeting one another with a subtle knowledge that some of these faces would not just be another face soon but a new brother, sister, or lover . . .
And from the bottom:
. . . laying and swaying to the tones and rhythms of the deafening collective din of us all saying yes yes yes! to this entire Dionysian ball, seeking and speaking within the twirl swirl of conversations that lose their shape and bleed into one another and form palpable pools of persuasive passion that perform perfect pieces of the hit show called Tonight, with a room and a house and a yard and a campus and a country and world of people living for these moments unbounded in unmitigated and unadulterated celebration . . .
Stanger, who graduated cum laude, apparently succeeded in making his four minutes memorable. "Some kids came up to me and said, 'I really liked your piece, but my mom loved it!'" And what about the other commencement speaker? "I forget his name," Stanger admits. "It was a cardinal from the Vatican. He was interesting, but he gave a more methodical speech about truth and freedom."
Not that high-minded ideals were absent from St. Mike's, but Stanger suggests the second part of his poem - about partying, really - conveys the human memories students will carry away along with their sheepskins. "I wanted to say it was some of the best times of people's lives," he suggests. "People in all their glory just basking in each other."
Stanger says he wanted to share his poem through Seven Days because "Burlington kind of goes on the same vibe I was going for there. Every day I walk around, this town just thrives with it." His days in the Queen City are numbered, however. The New Hampshire native is spending the summer here working at a kids' camp. He'll return home to work the rest of the year, and in the spring plans to travel to New Zealand. "I wanted to do some surfing and climbing before I go back to graduate school," he says, considering a Master's in English. "When I travel and see other places and people, I think that will figure into my writing."
Most theater aficionados are familiar with The Reduced Shakespeare Company's hilarious, Cliff Notes approach to the Bard. Now a fledgling Addison County group is offering a local version. The Augenblick Theatre Company presents The Complete Works of WLLM SHKSPR (Abridged) this Thursday through Saturday at the Vergennes Opera House, where producing artistic director Stacie Reid Erickson works as the rentals manager. Erickson and her husband, actor/graphic designer Jory Raphael, comprise the core of Augenblick - a German word that means "in the moment," explains Erickson, 27. Addison County thespians Matt Schlein and Tim Andrews will join Raphael on stage, presenting Shakespeare's 37 plays in a hair under two hours. That had better include a potty break, because this is a wet-your-pants-laughing kind of show. More on Augenblick next week.