The audience was silent as W.S. Merwin, former US poet laureate, read his poetry at the 27th National Undergraduate Literature Conference opening banquet, held at the Timbermine Steakhouse from 6:30-9 p.m.
NULC began in 1985, when Weber State University professors Mikel Vause and Michael Meyer had the idea to organize a conference giving undergraduates only the opportunity to present their papers, both critical and creative, to peers from campuses across the country.
Before Merwin began, students and professors from more than 77 colleges had the chance to mingle.
WSU senior Eric Riddle said this was his first time being accepted to the conference and attending the banquet.
“I didn’t really know what it was,” Riddle said, “but I was told there was an opportunity for undergrads to submit to the conference, and that’s a pretty novel thing.”
Rachel Rigley, also a WSU student attending the banquet for the first time, had a positive response when asked about NULC.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Rigley said. “It’s good to have a conference where you can be encouraged and be immersed in the world of writing and get feedback from other writers.”
The before-meal time was also an opportunity for students to meet with visiting authors.
“I’m really excited to meet these people,” Riddle said. “It’s always a pleasure to meet fellow authors, people who have actually made it, as opposed to people like me who want to be a cool author, so it’s always nice to be able to meet someone who has done it and lived the dream.”
After the meal, Merwin stepped up to the podium.
“I’m very happy to be here,” Merwin said. “You know, the more often we say things, the less they really mean, and yet it’s like saying thank you. The more you meant it, the less it sounds to be adequate, and yet that’s the only thing you can say.”
For an hour and a half, Merwin related his inspiration behind his poetry and read several of his poems.
When speaking about what he wanted to do when he was younger, Merwin said he always responded, “I’m going to write poems.”
Even when people asked him how he was going to make a living, Merwin stayed with his answer.
Merwin’s poetry received a standing ovation, and many people stayed after the speech to have books signed.
“I thought that he had a lot of good poetry,” Riddle said. “His use of language, the things he was able to convey through his poems, was very interesting and really well done.”
Rigley agreed about Merwin’s poetry.
“Even though the meal was horrible — I basically paid $30 to get a bowl of pasta drenched in butter — the actual poetry reading was great,” she said.
NULC continues today and tomorrow. Students can find an agenda for the conference at http://continue.weber.edu/nulc.