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Catherine, Caitlin: A mother, daughter reading

Melina Bourdeau/THE GATEPOST

By Melina Bourdeau

“‘I would like to give you something,” read Caitlin McLaughlin to begin the first line of her poem “An Apologist’s Guide to Field Dressing.” “‘The caul my grandmother was born in.’”

English Professor Catherine McLaughlin and her daughter Caitlin performed a joint poetry reading on Monday, March 9 in Hemenway Hall, where they read 18 poems “tag-team style,” switching back and forth between mother and daughter for an hour and a half.

Their poems, and a Q & A session which followed, included personal anecdotes and explanations of the meanings behind some of their poems.

“It was all great, because they had similar subjects, but distinct voices,” said senior Jimmy McKeon. “But the standout was the one they read together, ‘Twelve Stations of Brain Radiation.’ There was a moment after it ended before we all clapped where everyone had to get themselves together, because it was that powerful.”

Like many of the poems read, “Twelve Stations of Brain Radiation” had a personal connection to the poets. The poem was about Catherine’s sister-in-law, whose death anniversary was that day.

Catherine read her poem “For My Daughter, Age 21,” which was about Caitlin.

“Alright, I admit it,” Catherine said, introducing her poem about herself titled “Katrinka at fifty.” “I’m 64.”

“As of yesterday,” added Caitlin. The audience applauded.

Not all of their poetry pertained to their personal lives, however. Caitlin dedicated “In the Drink” to Hart Crane.

“I couldn’t help but think of my dad throughout the reading, because of how influential he has been in my own writing,” said sophomore Hadley Anna Cook.

“The connection that has formed through the McLaughlins’ respective poetry has erased the titles of mom and daughter, and replaced their bond with a beautifully strung together jewelry of intangible words that have the power to convey something truly beautiful!”

“I thought it was a great event,” said junior Isabella Guyton. “They had my attention the entire time. I think I was basically transfixed. I’m pretty sure it was the poetry itself, but also their dynamic together.”

Junior Bobby Murphy said, “It was so inspirational and awesome to hear work from someone I had already respected as an academic professor.”

The last poem of the reading was Caitlin’s “Redemption,” which “had a serious title, but [was] not a serious poem,” she said.

The poem concludes, “‘Each of us listening / to her own strains of heartbreak / or love / we are mute with wonder / alive / ready to stand and shout Bravo! / at the last shivering note / and the grasshopper maestro / turning toward the porch, / gives a low, dignified bow.’”



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