Camara Awkward-Rich ’11 is not afraid of moving at full speed towards a stationary object, tackling both verse and biomedical rhetoric, or making demands to the administration. The fearless Awkward-Rich sat down with The Argus to talk about rugby, Walt Whitman, and how the human body is portrayed in verse.
The Argus: Awkward has become a word that is used a lot by our generation. It gets thrown around a lot in conversation. What is it like having that word be part of your name?
Camara Awkward-Rich: People don’t believe that it’s my real name. I have had multiple people tell me that they thought that I just made up my last name and just used it as a Facebook alter ego because I am a very awkward person generally, so of course, it should be in my name. I’ve even had people claim that my Wes ID must not be real, that I must have fabricated it, because that can’t possibly be my last name. But I think it is very fitting.
A: I hear you play on the Wes rugby team as the backline captain. What’s the worst injury you have had to deal with?
CAR: Rugby is safer than it seems. But I get concussions more often than is healthy. But that’s the worst. Never broken a bone, though.
A: How long have you been playing rugby?
CAR: I played in high school so this will be my sixth year.
A: What got you interested in rugby?
CAR: I used to be a gymnast and then I decided the only thing I was good at in gymnastics was flinging myself full speed at stationary objects and then flying through the air. I was not good at any of the graceful parts of it. So my high school had a rugby team and I thought, ‘that seems exactly like flinging myself high-speed at stationary objects.’ So I tried it and I loved it.
A: Do you have any pre-game rituals or are there any Wes rugby traditions?
CAR: We have a song we sing before every game about how we like to gouge people’s eyes out and how we got kicked out of hell for doing that too often. But that’s about it.
A: You are the co-creator and editor of Queer Art, which is a student literature and art magazine. Why did you decide to create it?
CAR: My friend and I decided we wanted to make a lit magazine and we did it. We think that the word queer can mean so many different things, and it’s also a word that gives people a lot of anxiety. We think that it is also sort of an identity category and a set of academic theory and also a way of being that is very playful and can be played with.
A: You write poetry and you’re a Biology and English major. I’m curious, do you draw on both fields when you write?
CAR: I do. I’m actually writing a poetry thesis right now for the English department. It’s all about biomedical rhetoric of the body and thinking about different ways of representing the biological body.
A: Can you give me an example or a particular theme you are developing in your thesis?
CAR: One of my starting points was the way the immune system is often figured as an army. There is always this troop of bacteria invading and the immune system being an army that protects the integrity of the self from this invasive non-self. I don’t like that metaphor because it sort of gets translated into all sorts of funny political things. That is the same metaphor we use to explain why it makes sense that we are building a wall along the US-Mexico border because we have to protect the integrity of the body of the United States. So I have been doing a lot of writing poetry about different ways of conceptualizing the immune system as maybe a system, as a highway system, or a system of ways of relating or interacting between two bodies, or even as the body not like a bound thing because you know there are these little bacteria guys in your stomach all the time and who is to say that they aren’t also you because otherwise you wouldn’t be able to digest your food.
A: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one piece of literature or poetry with you, what would it be?
CAR: Honestly, okay this is going to sound funny, but the original Leaves of Grass. Not because I like Walt Whitman that much, like I am supposed to, but I think that it is a giant book that you can think about endlessly and it is sort of the groundwork for a lot of modern American poetry. I think you can talk to Walt all day long.
A: You were actively involved last year with the writing of a Wespeak demanding a staff position at Wesleyan dedicated to sexual assault. So I am curious, what is your opinion on what Wesleyan has done and can still do about this issue?
CAR: The administration has been really supportive this past semester in recognizing that we need to do something, whether or not that is just coordinating the resources we already have better, looking into hiring someone or looking into making the WesWell position more functional than it is. So I think that from last year my opinions haven’t really changed because nothing concretely has really changed. There is a task force that is going on right now that is looking to make recommendations to [President] Roth about all of that. I am still in support of a staff position whether it be full time or part time or just written into the WesWell director’s job because I don’t think it’s fair to ask a student to take on the responsibility of coordinating prevention efforts on campus.