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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

23rd edition of Penumbra draws in crowd for story time

The 23rd edition of California State University, Stanislaus’s art and literary journal, Penumbra, launched alongside a reading from featured contributors on May 7.
The Faculty Development Center proved to be a fitting venue. Writers read their works in front of bookcases adorned with a seemingly endless variety of vases, plants, bookends, woven what’s-its and, well, books.
Flowers made from book pages—some being rather racy and blush-worthy, I tell you—were set up on the readers’ podium and next to the sign-in sheets and copies of Penumbra for sale.
As guests found their seats, cycling in and out of the refreshments room with nachos or chicken wings, a slideshow of featured artwork played on the projector.
Heaven Lindsey-Burtch perched in a corner, providing a musical backdrop until emcees Jennifer Beard (junior, English) and Kayla Seabourn (senior, English) signaled the event’s start.
Wesley Riddle, a CSU Stanislaus alumnus now working at the Modesto Bee, began the night with a humorous short story about drunk driving. He made sure to remind us that the events of “German Engineering” were fictional and not in any way at all reflective of his person.
Following “German Engineering” were two deeply personal nonfiction pieces. Laura Dickman Turner, a graduate English student at CSU Stanislaus who has both produced and directed plays in New York, read a story about her father titled “Vietnam Was My Birthplace.”
Vanessa Brazil (junior, English) shared with the audience how she finally found her voice with “Tuesdays.”
Both delivered exceptionally well. Turner’s voice fluidly drifted between sincerity and sarcasm, and Brazil’s was appropriately anguished.
“Fruitless” by Samantha Meroney (senior, English) was the first poem of the night, followed by “Wimp,” a nonfiction piece about a relationship between cousins that evolved from jealousy and rivalry into admiration and love after a particularly brutal street hockey game.
Shiela Landre, a retired teacher and member of CSU Stanislaus’s class of 1978, transposed the relationship between Captain Ahab and Moby Dick onto a cat and the “Great White Moth” in her modern mock epic “OBSESSION!”
Yvonne De La Cruz, an English graduate student teaching first-year composition here on campus, appeared to dim the lights purely through her sultry read of “Catatonic Lust.”
Intermission came sooner than I expected and people were out of their seats, schmoozing over chocolate chip cookies while being serenaded by Lindsey-Burtch.
When the emcees returned, they welcomed to the podium Angel Villagomez (junior, English), who read two short poems, “He Naps” and “Evergreen in the Desert.” The former reconstructs the “quiet” moments of babysitting when the child is asleep, and the frantic rush to address all of your other responsibilities that follows; the latter presents the image of a stubborn evergreen in an ever-shifting, ferocious world.
Turlock resident Callie Kitchen followed with “A Memorable Purchase,” was written when she was living in Italy. The nonfiction piece was more about home, however, and the memories of her great-grandmother that were spurred on by the scent of a coat.
Co-host and Executive Editor of Penumbra, Seabourn also took to the podium, reading her poem titled “A Room for Rent in the Back of My In-Laws House.” A list poem, it details many old, worn, rusted items—each with their own story behind them—strewn across an Oregon bedroom.
Jessica Dickman (junior, English) kept us in the realm of nonfiction.
Her delivery of “Hard-Core” thrust us right into her somewhat awkward and apoplectic teenage mind. It was an intense, honest read, showing us the enjoyment a young Dickman found through harming others with her violent initiation into the punk scene.
James Morris, CSU Stanislaus graduate, juxtaposed Dickman—and many of the readers—as he took us out with calm, reserved readings of “Arrivals and Departures” (another piece written overseas) and “Rule #1.”
It’s hard to imagine a better closer than Morris’s “Rule #1,” a moving, genuine, only slightly silly tale about love, survival and rabbits.
Then, it was done. I found myself heartened at the end of the night.
From the event’s featured pieces, this year’s Penumbra looks to be a varied, dense read. And with the weight of the end of the semester crushing my motivation into a delicate powder, I walked away feeling just a little more inspired and ready to push through to Summer—just a little.

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23rd edition of Penumbra draws in crowd for story time