Nighttime poetry reading

Lorene Delaney-Ullman reads selections of poetry from her book, “Camoflauge for the Neighborhood.” (Michele Hardy)

Michele Hardy


Two award-winning female poets, Alice Anderson and Lorene Delany-Ullman, came to Saddleback College on Nov. 7 to read excerpts from their collection of poetry in the Human Services building.

Each woman’s style was vastly different from the other, and yet both were able to effectively express their lives through the prose.

Anderson went first and read a few poems that were both captivating and hauntingly personal. With avid use of adjectives and fluid storytelling, her poems covered topics of molestation, experiences before and after Hurricane Katrina, sibling rivalry and her divorce in Missouri.

“All of people made the false assumption that because they are such personal poems by nature that they’re all absolutely true. That they’re autobiography,” Anderson said. She said that they are known as “apparently personal” poems. “They’re all based on some truth of mine, but I have fabricated wildly to make the truth more interesting, more compelling or to be able to say something.”

Having been writing since she was four years old, Anderson suffered from a brain trauma and used writing as a way to rehabilitate herself.

Her writings about Hurricane Katrina are vivid with their descriptions of her experiences during and after the storm. Many poems about the subject were featured in her book “The Watermark” and also in “Human Nature.”

“My goal in the poem was for people to really get what (being in hurricane Katrina) was really like. The ferocity of it, the ridiculousness of it. The sound, the smell. Even the results,” Anderson said. “It didn’t dawn on anyone who didn’t live there certain things about it. Like that it pulled the bodies out of the mausoleum or that it killed every single animal. So when you came the day after the storm, there was no birdsong. There was no squirrels. Everybody’s cats were missing if people didn’t take them. I was really trying to give that force its own life.”

Next up to read was Lorene Delany-Ullman. Her poetry book was titled “Camoflauge for the Neighborhood” and was comprised mostly of poems about warfare that is both literal, internal and in the home.

Delany-Ullman describes her style of writing as being very concise and economical.

“I’m a little bit like Hemingway in that I don’t use a lot of adjectives. Its economical and very succinct and to the point…I guess it’s because how I think,” she said.

The poems in “Camoflauge” jump back and forth along a timeline, moving from past to present, covering moments of time about life in the suburbs and the ever present reality of war.

None of her poems have a title in Delany-Ullman’s book.

“These pieces, I felt that they really could be read as one long poem, essentially, so I didn’t want to title them,” she said.

Though she encourages her students to title everything they right because she says that it grounds the piece and gives it focus.

Many in the crowd enjoyed both speakers and their works.

Sara Beckx, a 26-year-old without major was very interested in Anderson’s opening poem, “The Split.”

“It was heavy…You rarely hear about people being abused by their families…It doesn’t really register with you, it doesn’t hit you because you’re almost, like numb,” Beckx said. “When I heard her reading about it, it made it so much more real and it made me think about all the people in the room who could be in a similar situation… It makes you want to treat everybody a little bit nicer because you really don’t know what they might be going through.”

Beckx was a little more critical of Delany-Ullman’s work.

“I felt like (Delany-Ullman) was holding back…Her face looked liked she was going to cry at some point…almost like there was something she was holding back from us,” she said. “I liked (Anderson’s) a little bit better, I think, because it was a little more gritty, a little more real and it talked about things I didn’t necessarily know or think about before.”

Stacey Cash, a 36-year-old also undecided Saddleback student shared Beckx viewpoint on the two authors.

“I liked (Anderson’s) personality. It seemed to shine more…Her enthusiasm as she was reading her poems felt more inviting. It brought me in as opposed to Ullman,” she said. “It was two different people with two different ways of expressing themselves.”

Alice Anderson reading excerpts from her books “Human Nature” and “The Watermark.” (Michele Hardy)