Reading benefit to raise money for hurricane victims

By Tierra Carpenter

Though southern Illinois has not been directly affected by Hurricane Irma or Hurricane Harvey, members of the campus community are trying to help victims hundreds of miles away through a reading benefit fundraiser.

For some, the extreme weather hit close to home.

One of these is Brett Gaffney, a 2014 SIU graduate with a master’s degree in poetry. Gaffney is originally from Houston, where Harvey unleashed about 40 inches of rain in four days, resulting in floods that displaced more than 30,000 people and inundated hundreds of thousands of homes, according to local officials.

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Gaffney’s poems will be read during a benefit Sept. 14 to raise money for those affected by the hurricanes.

The event, which is hosted by Allison Joseph, the director of the fine arts creative writing program, will feature participants either reading their own work or work from writers affected by the storm, according to the university news release for the event.

It will go from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Harry T. Moore Auditorium in Faner Hall, Room 1324.

Gaffney said literary events like these are important in the aftermath of crises.

“[They] inherently inspire creativity and hope, so hosting one with the intent of raising funds for hurricane relief can only be a very good thing,” Gaffney said. “I think art and literature help keep us going, and in this case, in more ways than one.”

Gaffney said although she currently lives in Ohio, she still has family members in Houston who suffered damage to their homes in Harvey’s wake.

“It’s surreal to watch these streets you know so well become unrecognizable beneath the swell of waves,” Gaffney said. “But the devastation isn’t about me … It’s about the people in my hometown. … I expect our recovery to be a long road, but we are nothing if not resilient.”

Meghann Plunkett, a graduate student studying poetry from Matunuck, Rhode Island, said she will be reading selections from Campbell McGrath, a poet from Florida, and Laurie Ann Guerrero, a poet from Texas.

Plunkett said she felt like she needed to participate for the storms’ victims.

“I felt like not enough is being done,” she said. “So I wanted to do anything I could.”

Joseph, who will be reading Gaffney’s writings, said the event is free but donations are encouraged.

“Every little bit helps, because our little bit will add up to make organizations stronger,” she said

All proceeds will go to Red Cross relief efforts in the affected areas, according to the press release.

“One of the reasons for doing this is to show how this university reaches out into the greater community,” Joseph said. “Not just here in Carbondale, but around the world.”

Tierra Carpenter can be reached at [email protected] or @tierramc_.

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