Naugatuck Valley Community College President Daisy Cocco De Filippis, the students, faculty and staff hosted the College’s traditional evening of poetry, Confluencia. Begun in the fall of 2008, Confluencia has become a destination for writers from out of state and abroad. A signature event for over ten years at NVCC, it continues to inspire and attract students. According to President De Filippis, “it is the center stage where many voices that have brought insight, a sense of beauty and social responsibility to the world around. That is where the power of poetry lies, in its potential to help us transcend narrowly personal needs and underscore our capacity to embrace our shared humanity. These voices have contributed to a fine-tuning of our capacity for discernment and, hopefully, for action too.”
The evening opened with a reception featuring members of Fermata the Valley, NVCC’s Music Society a cappella group and NVCC’s theater production students, led by Gil Harel, Assistant Professor of Music, and joined by Jason Seabury, Associate Professor of Mathematics. The students regaled the audience with joyful, animated renditions of with familiar tunes. Fermata the Valley is a choir comprised of students, faculty, employees, and community members. The group meets regularly, spending countless hours learning intricate harmony which they sing without accompaniment from any instruments.
According to Professor Harel, “You may find us rehearsing regularly in the hallways and stairwells on campus. Most of the music that we are singing this semester is arranged by myself, in four- or sometimes five-part harmony. We've learned songs running the gamut from iconic "boy-band" hits from the 90’s to Disney classics. The songs we performed at Confluencia were chosen in the hope that they would be easily recognized and thus inspire audience participation. Community engagement is, after all, our primary goal!”
President De Filippis opened the program by reminding the audience what poetry does for the soul. “Poetry is to the soul and our humanity what technology and innovation are to advancement. You can’t have one without the other. More than ever, we need poetry to keep our humanity strong and our soul alive.”
Twelve students read poems in the open mic section of the program. Steve Parlato, Professor of English and Moderator of Confluencia commented, “Confluencia is a special event, and November 19th was no exception. It was exciting to see a new side of Kathy Chesto - whom I know primarily as Tamarack senior writer and student - as she read from her powerfully poetic memoir. Dr. Jose Gonzalez was a joy, his work both thought-provoking and funny. Our open mic readers, particularly those sharing their original poems, once again impressed me. It was a great way to wrap up the fall readings! “
Guests poets included Dr. Kathleen O’Connell Chesto and Jose B. Gonzalez.
Author/educator, Dr. Kathleen O’Connell Chesto, has taught middle school through graduate school and traveled the world lecturing and leading retreats. Her many books, education programs, articles and videos on spirituality, religious education, and family have received numerous awards from Catholic Press, Associated Church Press, National Catholic Education Association (NCEA), National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers (NACFLM) and the Christophers. Named “Distinguished Alumna” by Hartford Seminary, Kathy received two national “Lifetime Achievement” awards, an "Outstanding Educator" award, "MS Mother of the Year Award," and was nominated for the Pilot International “Woman of the Year.” Kathleen holds a doctorate and master’s in ministry and theology. Celebrating 50 years of marriage, she has three children, five grandchildren, and is an NVCC music major.
Jose B. Gonzalez was born in San Salvador, El Salvador and immigrated to New London, Connecticut at the age of eight. He is the author of Toys Made of Rock (2015), based on his journey from a non-English speaker to a professor of English, and the collection When Love Was Reels (2017), which pays homage to Latino and Latin American film stars and icons. His poetry has been anthologized in the Norton Introduction to Literature, Theatre Under My Skin: Contemporary Salvadoran Poetry (2014), and The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the U.S. He is the coeditor (with John S. Christie) of Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature (2006). A nationally known speaker, Gonzalez has presented at various colleges such as the University of Florida, Harvard University, and Cornell University; in countries including Mexico, Spain, and El Salvador; and institutions including the National Smithsonian Museum of African Art and the National Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. He has been a contributor to National Public Radio and has published poetry in journals such as Quercus Review, Callaloo, The Teacher's Voice, Palabra, Acentos Review, and Colere. Gonzalez has been featured on Univision and the nationally syndicated show American Latino TV.