Natasha Sajé, English professor at Westminster College, suggested that dedicated spaces for otherness in society are necessary in her Thursday evening poetry reading from her memoir “Terroir: Love Out of Place.”
“The word ‘terroir’ refers to the climate and soil in which something is grown,” Sajé said. “I apply this idea to the environments that nurture and challenge us, exploring in particular how the immigrant experience has shaped my identity.”
Sajé’s memoir was the featured piece for the first installment of The Anne Newman Sutton Weeks Poetry Series at Westminster.
Sajé has been the curator of the poetry series since 1998 and said she picks poets whose work she finds interesting and undervalued. She said she’s greatly enjoyed her work with the poetry series and hinted that her next memoir may detail her experiences with the series, even half-joking that readers could expect some gossip.
The event was held on Zoom with 30 individuals in attendance. It was hosted and moderated by associate English professors Ranjan Adiga and Eileen Chanza Torres.
During the reading, Sajé shared her experience of spending a winter waitressing in Switzerland.
“The restaurant was the inverse of the larger culture,” she read aloud from her memoir. “Gay waiters and cooks had an automatic pass while straight men had to prove they weren’t homophobic to get hired.”
Sajé said the workspace was what theorist Michele Foucault called a heterotopia.
“It was a compensatory place of otherness valuable for its affirmation of difference and a way to escape repression,” Sajé said. “We developed a camaraderie with deep roots.”
The Anne Newman Sutton Weeks Poetry Series will host four more events via Zoom throughout the remainder of the upcoming academic year.
The next event will feature a reading from poet Miriam Bird Greenberg on Feb.1
Forum staff reporter Emerson Fratzke contributed to this report.