On February 20th, Juliana Gray visited Alfred State College for a special reading of her poetry. Dr. Gray is originally from Alabama, but is now an associate professor of English at Alfred University. She is the author of two collections of poetry, The Man Under My Skin (2005) and Roleplay (2012). Dr. Gray was the recipient of the 2010 Bea Gonzalez Prize for Poetry and the 2010 Orphic Book Prize from Dream Horse Press.
The night opened up on a light note when Juliana Gray set her phone on the podium and assured that audience she wouldn’t use it by saying, “unless things take a disastrous turn, I won’t update my Facebook.” Dr. Gray began from The Man Under My Skin and read a poem inspired by Greek mythology. She then teased that since coming to Alfred, frozen, snow and cold have snuck into her poetry vernacular. Throughout the night Dr. Gray engaged the audience with persona poems about anything from love between zombies to Nancy Drew’s match.com profile and other poems written in her own voice. She read the poem “Zucchini” from Alfred State’s flyer of the event. Upon seeing the picture of herself on said flyer, she gave the audience a laugh by saying “I look a little severe. I look like I might eat your children.”
When it came time to answer questions, Dr. Gray didn’t disappoint. Her answers were witty, humorous and insightful. One individual asked what the purpose of her poetry was, to which she joked that it was to hang out at writers’ conventions and have a good time with friends, but then modified to say that she writes because she has something to say. Dr. Gray said that she now writes in the mornings and only requires a clear mind to begin her process of creation. She says that her favorite topic changes and that she is not above stealing ideas from her students at the University. Because she believes that she has the handwriting of a 4th grade boy, Dr. Gray types her poetry. She also expressed that she enjoys the research that goes into some of her poetry, such as her poem about Anne Boleyn. Lastly, Dr. Gray explained that the only way to publish poetry is to win a contest, which proves to be difficult and filled with disappointments, rejections and little cash.
The event was a light-hearted and enjoyable time. Juliana Gray was witty, charming and personable. Her poetry, though sometimes shocking, holds a refreshing honesty and covers a wide range of intriguing topics. Attending the event was a great two hours spent. Juliana Gray’s two collections, The Man Under My Skin and Roleplay, are both available at the Alfred State’s campus store.