On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the Reading in the Dark event hosted by students in the special topic course Literary Citizenship (ENGL 391) taught by Richard L. Thomas Professor of Creative Writing Ira Sukrungruang. The concept was nothing that I had ever experienced at Kenyon before. What made Reading in the Dark so fascinating — aside from the glowsticks, the poetry and the prose shared that evening — was how the entire concept was a part of the larger group project facilitated by Sukrungruang. His class allows English majors to think about possible career paths, and each of his students got the opportunity to work with one another to organize different events like the reading.
Each student in the class was assigned to a random group of four in the third week of the semester and had two months to plan for the event they wanted to create. The groups had to think about logistics such as sound, lighting, time and location for their events. “The goal is to teach collaborative community building,” Sukrungruang said in an interview with the Collegian.
Sukrungruang attended Reading in the Dark with his family. “I am always proud when students think outside of the box. It goes beyond reading or a lecture, when they are really trying to engage the community,” he said. Reading in the Dark was the first event to kickstart the class’s group projects, and it was inspiring being able to hear a multitude of students share their writing pieces. The event was planned and hosted by Phoebe Houser ’24, Isa Bolton ’24, Emily Jetton ’24 and Noah Rosenberg ’25.
In an email interview with the Collegian, Bolton said that planning the event did not take as long as she expected, and one of the group members had the idea before the project even started. The event ended up taking place around 7 p.m. in the Horn Gallery, when it was still pretty light outside. Originally, the event was planned to be later on in the day, and it was not intended to be an open mic. “Before the event, I was definitely nervous because the sun was still out and the whole theme of the event depended on it being dark, but the event ended up turning into an open mic and it was really nice to hear everyone read,” Bolton said. “After the event I was pretty happy because my professor was there and said the event went well, which sounded like a passing grade to me.”
I thought that each student who planned and worked on the event did an amazing job. The reading event allowed any student who wanted to read a piece of writing to share their work, and after the readings there was a brief question and response session. During this, listeners were able to ask the readers where their inspiration came from. One student shared how he collaborated with another reader to determine whether artificial intelligence could mimic human emotion through poetry.
There are three more projects happening in April. As explained by Sukrungruang, one of the projects is called Dear Diary Reading and will be held in the Chapel. Another project will also be held at the Horn with multiple tables set up, each with a different writing prompt. The prompts will be timed, and after the time is up the people at each table will have the opportunity to share their work. All students are welcome to partake in the events, and more details about how to participate will be advertised to the student body as the dates for the other projects approach.