Loose Leaves provides literary outlet for campus
Once a month, at 4:30 p.m. on no particular day, a collection of students,
faculty, and other members of the college community gather in Baxter House,
and they read to each other. "We've read Groucho Marx and Karl Marx,"
said Tricia Welsch, Associate Professor and Chair of Film Studies, and
the founder of the Loose Leaves program.
"When you're a kid you loved getting read aloud to," said Welsch.
"It's one of the great lost joys of childhood."
Welsch introduced the idea of the monthly Loose Leaves program to Baxter
four years ago, before she was the house sponsor. Similar one-off events
had been held at the college before, by the library. "It was so interesting
to me to see what people picked," said Welsch.
At a Loose Leaves, a reader will have five to seven minutes to read whatever
he or she wants, as long as it wasn't written by his- or herself. Poetry
and prose are common. The first reading at the first Loose Leaves was
from T.S. Eliot's "Four Quartets." Things written by people
close to the reader have been shared. Once, a student read from a sex
manual. Allen Ginsberg's "America" is the only thing that's
ever been read twice.
"People have read things that are really personal and reflect their
values and interests in ways that you never would have guessed and when
it works right you can hear a pin drop," said Welsch.
Welsch estimates that at least half of the faculty has read, as well
as representatives from the administration, the library, the College Bookstore,
the College Archives, the Arctic Museum and the Art Museum. Two years
ago President Edwards read a Shakespeare sonnet during a blackout.
"Professor [Henry] Laurence, [Government and Asian Studies], said
that he wanted to read a story that he had perfected by reading it endlessly
for his son Colin," recalled Welsch. "And he explained to us
that Colin now thought this was a baby story. But clearly it drove Professor
Laurence wild that he had lost his audience. He read us a Beatrix Potter
story with all the little animal voices in different accents and it was
done perfectly. It was charming."
Special Loose Leaves events have occasionally been held. The Mellon Minority
Undergraduate Fellows and their mentors did one together. The last Loose
Leaves of the 2000-2001 school year was all seniors, and Welsch thinks
that this will be repeated in the future.
"It's about pleasure," said Welsch of the program. "It's
reminding people why we read."
The next Loose Leaves will be held at 4:30 on November 29.