Coming of age, on stage and page

Jasper loves artistic collaboration and cross-pollination, artists working across genres and media to provoke, inspire, collaborate, and create. Last fall, Trustus Theatre hosted a poetry contest with Jasper and in conjunction with the Trustus production of the hit musical Spring Awakening. Because the play focuses on sexual awakening and coming of age, we invited writers to submit poems about the coming of age experience.

The winners were Randy Spencer and Kristin Freestate, both of Columbia. Both received tickets to the play, and the winning poems were published in the play program and (now) in Jasper. Spencer’s winning poem, “The Gift,” is an adolescent fantasy, the last lines charged with his naïve desire and our own adult cynicism about that desire. Like T. S. Eliot’s mermaids, we know she isn’t singing to him. Freestate’s poem, “Move-In Day,” is a poignant portrayal of age, a speaker so very aware of the energy and the beauty of the young.
The Gift

The summer issue of Holiday hides
underneath my pillow.
An olive-skinned woman
stretched prone on a pedestal
is spread across two pages,
framed by the Aegean’s two blues.
Her undressed body arches upward,
lifted on slender, gold-braceletted arms,
her head high,
ripples as strong as a riptide
running along the curve of her spine.
She is something amphibious,
a glistening treasure, a gift
brought up from the sea,
her eyes reflecting the water
out of which she rose.
She says to me: this day
I am expecting a lover.

Randy Spencer
Move-In Day

I flicker, room to room,
light each candle, burn each bulb,
fill them all with light, noise.
I trim myself with tissue paper, Lucy Luminaria,
cut patterns over lamps
and let the light shine through,
casting shadows of myself across these walls.

Today I helped the students moving in
and watched the girls, all tan with glossy hair.
They counted inventories, chattering
of bunks and beanbag chairs. I wondered—
was I ever so guileless?
So lovely?

Kristin Freestate
A physician and writer, Randy Spencer received his MFA in poetry from USC in 2002. He is the author of two chapbooks, The Failure of Magic and, most recently, What the Body Knows, which was selected as a winner in the 2009 SC Poetry Initiative chapbook contest. Kristin Freestate is a poet and business manager who lives in Columbia. Her work has appeared in The Petigru Review and The James Dickey Newsletter.

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