Villanova Students Visit The Kelly Writers House

Jackie Carroll reads poetry at the Kelly Writers House.

Take a stroll to 3805 Locust Walk at the University of Pennsylvania. There, you will find an old, Victorian-style home with a green wrap-around porch. In front of the charming structure, a sign reads in yellow lettering, “The Kelly Writers House.”

The Kelly Writers House was founded in 1995 by a group of students, faculty, staff and alumni of the University of Pennsylvania. It serves as a mixed-use community space, and today, it hosts more than 300 events and projects per year. Such events include readings, art exhibits, lectures, film screenings, seminars and literary celebrations. 

Funded and supported by UPenn alumni, Philadelphians and other literary minded people interested in creative undertakings, The Kelly Writers House is open to all college students, local artists or hobbyist writers. Most Writers House events are open to the public, and all events are free.  

During the fall and spring semesters, The Writers House hosts a Speakeasy Open Mic Night On the first Wednesday of each month. The open mic night is student-run and led by Equilibria, an arts magazine at UPenn that explores the relationship between writing and art. 

According to the publication’s website, “Equilibria’s primary aim is to provide a creative space for Penn undergraduate artists and writers. We encourage students to engage in a creative exchange, where they create a piece inspired by the one they receive.”

Rachel Dennis (they, them) is a senior at UPenn and currently runs the open mic night. Dennis graduates in the spring and is looking for a younger student to take over after graduation. 

“The Speakeasy is an old writers house tradition institution,” Dennis said. “I went as a freshman for my new student orientation and the girl who was running it said they needed someone. I love it. It is so fun to hear people read. I remember most people who read, especially if they do something crazy. We get Penn Students, but we also get a lot of non-students. It is cool to be a part of something like this. People started recognizing me on Locust Walk or even on campus.”

Villanova English student Jackie Carroll attended the Speakeasy after hearing about the event from a friend. Carroll wanted fellow English majors and literary minded students at Villanova to share in this positive experience. 

On Wednesday, Nov. 3, Carroll and three fellow English majors attended the Speakeasy. They took the Norristown High Speed Line from Villanova’s campus, transferred trains in Philly and walked to 3805 Locust after arriving on UPenn’s campus.

The event was outside, and attendees huddled around space heaters to watch the artists step up to the mic. Artists shared poetry, short stories, spoken word pieces and unfinished work in a creative and safe space. All work was welcome, and artists were encouraged to express their authentic individuality. An artist known as the “Puppet Master” expressed her unique and creative imagination as she held up a hand puppet to the speaker and moved the doll in accordance with her music. 

Villanova senior Chloe Cherry attended the event on Wednesday. Carroll and Cherry both shared their literary work with the crowd. 

“Because it was such an intimate and kind of a quirky session, I felt comfortable enough to share my piece with the crowd,” Cherry said. “I felt like the rating of my work didn’t matter, but just the fact that I shared a part of myself with a group felt important. And that’s how I felt about everyone else’s piece. In that space I was just excited to hear people perform their voice. I wasn’t as overly critical and analytical as some spaces kind of provoke you to be.”

Wednesday, Nov. 3marked the final open mic night of the fall 2021 semester, but Equilibria plans to start the speakeasy again at the start of the spring semester. You can register to attend at the Writers House Garden, but if you cannot make it in-person, you can stream the event on YouTube as well.