Snaps for That: Literary Magazine Diminuendo Hosts Second Poetry and Music Night

About halfway through first-year Leah Lawson’s first poem, the buzz of a tornado warning rippled through the room. After a brief interlude of awkward laughter and phone silencing, Lawson continued.  “Please say something, anything. But, it’s too late. / And we don’t speak in these kinds of movies,” Lawson said. Those are the final lines …

About halfway through first-year Leah Lawson’s first poem, the buzz of a tornado warning rippled through the room. After a brief interlude of awkward laughter and phone silencing, Lawson continued. 

“Please say something, anything. But, it’s too late. / And we don’t speak in these kinds of movies,” Lawson said.

Those are the final lines of the first poem she presented, “Classic Green Eyed Love,” a reference to the song “Green Eyes” by Erykah Badu.

Against the backdrop of an impending thunderstorm and a potential tornado, students met to share poetry and music with members of Loyola’s longest-running literary magazine, Diminuendo. 

The club first hosted poetry nights in the fall semester of 2020, allowing students to recite their own poetry or songs (Holden Green | The Phoenix)

The club started hosting poetry nights last semester alongside their issue launch events, according to Diminuendo co-president Adrian Ackert. The event provides a great opportunity for club members who might not have work going in the upcoming issue to share their work with others, she said. 

“We knew there was some, like, good interest going into it, but it really blew our minds when we got there and saw so many people actually showed up for it,” Ackert said. 

Diminuendo is not Sebastian Elizarraras’ first experience with poetry, as the first-year already has a self-published book of poetry, “The Dust of Dreams: A Collection of Poetry,” under his belt. He presented a piece that wasn’t published in that collection and began as a collaborative piece among friends. 

Elizarraras said the piece itself is very timely as it deals with themes of being 18 and being unsure where the line between adulthood and childhood lies. It incorporates a saying Elizarraras’ mother often told him about aging, “Can’t let the old man in,” throughout.

The saying is about reveling in your youth and refusing to let age scare you or prevent you from living life to the fullest.  

In fact, being a part of Diminuendo isn’t a few members’ first brush with literary magazines or writing. Sophomore Austin George was a part of his high school’s literary magazine and knew it was something he wanted to pursue in college in order to keep in touch with his creative side, he said. 

Lawson said she has been writing since the fifth grade and won a local competition and two national writing competitions in high school for the Young Writers organization. This isn’t her first time presenting for an on-campus organization either, as she recently performed at the open mic event for Loyola University Chicago Empowering Sisterhood (LUCES), a community and mentorship program on campus for women of color. 

Lawson said her experience with her LUCES mentorship has allowed her to be more vulnerable, which has expressed itself in her writing. One of the poems she performed at Poetry Night used her personal experience, deviating from her usual style which focuses on stories and characters, she said.

In her previous work, Lawson sometimes used these characters to talk about personal experiences while still maintaining some distance. The first poem she presented, “Classic Green Eyed Love,” employs that technique, while the second, “For You Deserve,” is about Lawson and her partner. 

Elayna Pasqua signed up to perform three original songs on the acoustic guitar titled “Ballroom Blues,” “Lovely Thing” and “Dog Walking.” ( Holden Green | The Phoenix)

“It’s just so much easier when I’m going through something to write it all down into a piece of art that I can present to others who may suffer the same way that I am,” Lawson said.

Vulnerability was a common theme among the work presented at last semester’s Poetry Night, first-year Ashley Jimmeson said. At this event, Jimmerson presented two poems, “Self-Isolation” and “Autocannibalism.” “Autocannibalism” is going to be published in the upcoming issue of the magazine.

The other, “Self-Isolation,” is a bit more personal, and in the lead-up to the event, Jimmerson was unsure if she would feel comfortable enough to present it at the poetry night. 

Poetry wasn’t the only thing on the itinerary for the night — some students came to present music. Elayna Pasqua signed up to perform three songs on the acoustic guitar, each with its own distinct theme.

“Ballroom Blues,” “Lovely Thing” and “Dog Walking” were the three original songs Pasqua performed at the Poetry Night.

“Whenever I do put on a little performance or something, I always try to pick songs that show, like, the different types of songs that I can write,” Pasqua said. “I don’t want to just do, like, only upbeat ones or only sad ones.” 

In addition to fighting through the turbulent weather, members of Diminuendo overcame various hurdles in their journey to publish the most recent issue of the magazine and set up previous events. 

The passion and care members have for the magazine is what keeps it going, even through more difficult challenges, club co-president Kristina Tsakos said.

The first Poetry Night on Oct. 14 was done without funding from the school, Ackert said. The club had been having issues getting funding for printing the magazine and felt that asking for funding for an event like this might have been pushing their luck, Ackert wrote in a follow-up email to The Phoenix. 

The club used their start-up funds to buy snacks and drinks for attendees, Ackert wrote.

Additionally, Loyola recently changed its policy for the use of Adobe products like InDesign, which Diminuendo uses to format its pages. The new policy restricts at-home access for all students and requires professors to request access to Adobe software for their students, according to Sofia Joseph. Many members of Diminuendo’s tech and design committee lost access, Tsakos said. 

In the face of this, Tsakos said she was unsure how to advise the Tech and Design committee of the magazine. To her surprise, she was presented with a physical, collage-style magazine the committee intended to scan. 

For students with science-leaning majors, like Tsakos and George, Diminuendo has become an outlet for their more creative side and their passion for creating art. 

“When you’re, you know, working on the analytical side of your brain a lot you start to miss [creativity] a lot,” George, an environmental policy major, said.

Tsakos said she’s a better scientist when she has space to express herself and wants to foster an environment where others can be creative.

“I know, when I come into this room every Monday, the only thing that matters is talking about this artwork, talking about this literature,” Tsakos said. 

The launch event for the next issue of Diminuendo will be held on April 14.

Featured image by Holden Green | The Phoenix

Audrey Hogan

Audrey Hogan