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Oxford Magazine hosts Spring Street Reading

The rain drizzling outside the windows harmonizes with the first few notes of “Piano Man” a student plunks out on the old piano at the front of the room. As another student draws the words “Spring Street Reading '' in bubble letters on a large whiteboard, students and English professors trickle in slowly, helping themselves to the coffee, lemonade and cookies laid out on the back table and settle in to hear their fellow students’ stories.

Oxford Magazine hosted its first Spring Street Reading of the semester at 7:30 p.m. last Wednesday in Bachelor Hall Room 337. The reading featured the work of three Miami University MFA students. 

The scent of coffee was discernible before even entering Room 337, which the sign next to the door declares it to be Bachelor’s “English Reading Room.”

The cozy room was filled with rows of comfortable armchairs. One wall was lined with dark wooden bookshelves, another with cabinets filled with porcelain. At the front sat a vintage-looking couch, a small piano and a podium. 

Cody Smothers, a student getting his Ph.D. in English, said he appreciates the readings because they expose him to creative writing. As a student in the composition rhetoric program, his own writing is more research-based.

“I come out to these things because I still enjoy hearing people read their creative stuff,” Smothers said. 

At half-past seven, the “Piano Man” player walked to the podium, introduced himself as Sam Gutelle, the editor-in-chief of Oxford Magazine, and welcomed the nearly 20 audience members.

“Ox Mag,” as its staff refers to it, is run by creative writing MFA students and sponsored by the Miami University Press. It publishes art, poetry, fiction and nonfiction pieces twice a year. 

The first student to read was Chris Murphy, a graduate student from New Jersey who specializes in fiction writing. Murphy read a short story he had written titled “Hungry Heart,” inspired by his love for Bruce Springsteen.

The room grew absolutely silent except for the sound of Murphy’s voice as he recounted the story of Rat, a talented guitar player and devoted fan of the Boss auditioning to impersonate him in a hometown parade.

The story ended with the parade organizers rejecting Rat for being too into Springsteen.

“The truth is son, I think this matters to you too much.”

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Gutelle next introduced Louisa Pavlik, a writer who mainly focuses on creative nonfiction about her mom.

Pavlik read two pieces: “The Barter Economy” and “Junkyard Estuary.”

“The Barter Economy” explored her mother’s tradition of giving Pavlik and her sisters rings every year, which Pavlik said was her mother’s way of giving her daughters something to barter should they fall on hard times financially.

Pavlik described herself as the “daughter of a mother whose resilience is too often tested,” but with a sense of humor that had the audience chuckling and nodding along with her pieces. 

The final reader was Sara Baxter, a poet. Baxter read a number of short pieces with titles such as “Maternal,” “Carpe Diem” and “Conspiracy Theories.”

The poems were snapshots from everyday life — moments like changing her cat’s litter or watching an ant crawl across her kitchen floor — that made her pause and contemplate her place in the universe.

Dylan Eckers, a second-year MFA student, has been to “about a dozen” Spring Street Readings.  

“I actually thought tonight’s was probably one of my favorites that I’ve been to, mostly because it felt really well-paced,” Eckers said. “Everyone had their best work to read and they were really confident in it – there were just good vibes.”

The next Spring Street Reading will be at 7:30 p.m. on  March 11 in Bachelor Room 337.