Poet, playwright vibrantly visits Allen Hall


Jessica Jutzi

Magdalena Gomez, the author of Shameless Woman, is the Guest-in-Residence of Unit One Allen Hall from September 25th to September 29th. She will be reading poems from her memoir, holding workshops for new poets, and hosting improve theature games during her stay.

By Karen Liu, Contributing writer

As an eight-year-old, Magdalena Gómez began writing poems inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson. After decades of writing, her multilingual memoir “Shameless Woman” was born.

On Sept. 25, Gómez greeted the students of Allen Hall with a passionate reading of selected poems from her book.

Critics identify her as a playwright, a poet, an author, an educator, a social activist, a motivational speaker and a performer.  All of these identities were displayed live from the Allen Hall Guest-in-Residence.

“Identities are fluid and ultimately intangible,” she said. “The best identity for me is to move beyond all of them into that place of wonder and fulfillment that cannot be housed by words.”

During her visit, Gómez shared her stories as a cultural organizer, a vanguard performance poet, a playwright and the co-founder and artistic director of Teatro V!da, the first Latin@ theater in Springfield, Massachusetts.

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From Sept. 25 to Sept. 29, Gómez was scheduled to hold many different events, including an introductory workshop for overcoming fear of public speaking, a poetry workshop, activities involving expression through body language and a workshop titled “Get fierce, stay fierce: when POWER is a good word.”

She also hosted tea-times, during which students interacted with her on a more personal level and spoke about topics such as overcoming writer’s block and the many uses of podcasts.

Laura Haber is the program and academic director of Unit One, the Living Learning Community at Allen Hall that hosts the Guests-in-Residence program. Gómez was recommended to her by a student who had previously seen her perform.

“After exploring further, I was impressed by her work and her experience in working with young people and leading workshops,” said Haber. “Her work connects the personal to the political with both humor and seriousness.”

Both of which Gómez demonstrated in her memoir, which gathers moments of her history from the 70’s to the present in a way that is accessible and provides snapshots of what she has experienced.

“It is a book that the reader can open anywhere, and not only find an intimate part of me, but perhaps revisit a significant moment of their own lives,” Gómez said later in an email.

Among many other things, Gómez is skilled at interacting with college-aged minds, and Unit One is a progressive program in which she can help the students “expand their views, social consciousness and empathy.”

“My poetry is an act of resistance against all forms of tyranny.”

But her solution is never the usage of poetry as a weapon.

“I found her performance thought-provoking yet lighthearted; she has a way of talking about intense subjects while still making you smile. I couldn’t turn away,” said attendee CJ Seymour, sophomore in Media.

Gómez’s ability to transform tyrannical actions into kindness and laughter was fully demonstrated in one of her most renowned pieces, “Dancing In My Cockroach Killers.” The poem was later made into an off-Broadway musical.

“Cockroach Killers” is a racial stereotype referring to the extremely pointy shoes worn by Puerto Ricans. Being proud of her Latin heritage, Gómez took the term and infused it with pride and passion, making it into a piece that resonated with much of her audience.

“Her presence carries meaning and tells a story of someone whose greatness was forged through powerful experiences,” said Sam Washington, junior in Engineering. “When she speaks, she can tell a story about herself that is so relatable it’s like she’s reading a passage from your own biography.”

As a social activist, Gómez never seems to shy away from sensitive issues. When asked about the recent shooting that occurred on campus, Gómez encouraged students to be vocal instead of passively listening to what others have to say about it.

“Refuse to be a victim or a bystander; embrace your right to liberation and share all of your best tools and experience to encourage self-determination in others,” Gómez said.

“Be a visionary, not a missionary.”

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