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Visitors sift through books at the Baltimore Book Festival. Photo by Brent Bemiller.

The Baltimore Book Festival: home to UMBC students’ poetry

The Baltimore Book Festival showcases the literary art of various writers from various hometowns and with various specialties. The annual event brings together different walks of life to enjoy a common theme: books and literature. From food writers to children’s book authors, the festival gave select incredible writers a place to share their works, including a few students from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

The Ivy Bookshop Stage hosted a student-writing presentation for which Tess McRae, an English communication & technology major, and Morgan Mullings, a media and communications studies major, shared their marvelous pieces of poetry. Lia Purpura, Artist in Residence at UMBC, familiar with the utter talent and outstanding ability of McRae and Mullings, encouraged these students to share their poetry at the festival alongside many other talented writers. 

The participation of McRae and Mullings in such an anticipated Baltimorian event, specifically organized for lovers of literature, is extremely admirable and inspiring. McRae and Mullings’ successes shine a light on the capability and opportunity for college students to pursue creative careers with great effort, inspiration, editing and critiques, of course. Nonetheless, McRae and Mullings’ readings at the Baltimore Book Festival marked a pivotal step in their individual journeys as writers.

What does reading at the Book Festival mean to you?

McRae: I’ve been thinking of this experience as my “debut” as a poet in the Baltimore area. My poetry has received state-wide and national recognition in print, but I’ve only ever performed my own work in front of people in community on an institutional level. I’m honored to have a chance to take an embodied step into this grander kind of spotlight.

At the festival, McRae read three of her poems titledat the third light turn right,” “at the throat” and “you say, ‘out loud!’” Her poetry explores a plethora of topics and themes, one of which being the painful care one could possess for someone they do not know how to help. McRae strategically pairs influxes in her voice and facial expressions with the multiple emotions expressed throughout her poetry. Her reading possessed great movement and brought life to her pieces.

Mullings read four poems including “my rising is an earth sign” and “before first words.” Their poetry documents the effects of and steps in healing from intergenerational trauma as well as the intersections of their identities. Mullings’ poetry wears an individual style, making the writer distinguishable and recognizable. Their reading did justice to the natural progression of themes in their poems, mimicking the constant rise of emotion throughout the works that they are remembered for.

How does it feel to be reading at the same festival as many other phenomenal writers?

Mullings: There’s a lot of imposter syndrome that I reconcile with and getting this opportunity brought out a lot of that. At the same time, I’m very proud of myself. Some of the best interactions I’ve had were meeting writers and I always think “I want to be where you are one day.” 

The Baltimore Book Festival celebrates skillful writers, two of which who can be found on our very own campus. Students have the special opportunity to watch McRae and Mullings advance in their literary careers through publications and readings. They are the living stories of where aspiring student writers can go and how they can get there.