“As I get older / it gets harder to convince myself / that monsters aren’t under my bed / that monsters aren’t real / aren’t make believe / aren’t just figments of my imagination.”
These are the final words of Sierra Parsons’ poem “Sandy Hook,” which she wrote the night of the tragedy and performed at Barnstorm’s “Confessions” on Jan. 26. The event had two speakers, Parsons and Nikki Fathi, who performed the work of confessional poets such as Sylvia Plath, Marie Howe and more.
Confessional poetry emerged in the ‘50s and ‘60s as a form of intensely personal poetry that often explores heavy subject matter. Parsons and Fathi each had the chance to perform their own poetry as well.
“I wrote that just after [the tragedy at] Sandy Hook happened and stayed up until four in the morning writing it,” Parsons said. “I was just completely overwhelmed.”
Barnstorm presented “Confessions” in the Theater Arts Center of UC Santa Cruz. The event’s eight poems explored various confessional topics, opening with the multiple admissions a girl shares in Dolly Lemke’s “I Never Went to That Movie at 12:45.” The poem is constructed around a series of inner revelations like “I wish girls liked me more” and set the tone for the night’s personal subject matter.
Barnstorm is a student-run theater production company managed by three UCSC graduate students. Kathryn Wahlberg, the artistic director at Barnstorm, said all the shows are directed by students and are often written by students as well.
“[Barnstorm is] a vehicle for students to produce work that’s personally meaningful to them and to take more of an active role and ownership in the art and performance that is produced,” Wahlberg said.
The director of “Confessions,” Nikki Oneil, a fourth-year film and digital media major, created a short film that served as a backdrop to the poetry readings. Instead of using a storyline, the film consisted of different scenic views of Santa Cruz, ranging from the streets and buildings of downtown Santa Cruz to an angled shot of tree branches in the sun.
Oneil used Super 8 film, which is an older type of film commonly used in the ‘60s. It was typically associated with home videos and other private recordings, adding to the overall theme of personal confession.
“[Super 8] is not commonly used anymore,” Oneil said. “It’s one of those technologies that, at the time, everybody had one. It was used for home filming, but now nobody knows of it.”
Oneil said that with theaters now projecting movies on digital, celluloid film like Super 8 will no longer be used anymore.
“As [Super 8] plays, it deteriorates, which is something that happens with celluloid film. If you play it over and over again, it dies a little bit,” Oneil said.
When asked about her intentions in developing this piece, Oneil traced her inspiration to her frustrations with new technology.
“I was sort of dissatisfied with the film department … I was dissatisfied with new technology in general,” she said. “In film classes, we’re learning about this technology now and in 10 years it’s going to be obsolete. Poetry, because it speaks to the human condition, will always transcend technological advancements.”
Upcoming Barnstorm events include The Little Dog Laughed on Feb. 17–19 and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead on March 2–4. For more information go to barnstorm.ucsc.edu.