The first thing LSA senior Kailyn Bondoni learned about poetry was that it rhymes. The second was that haikus existed. The third was that free verse also existed, which, in turn, erased the first lesson she learned.
Bondoni’s journey to artistic expression, particularly in poetry, began in her fourth grade classroom. Her teacher read and recited “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein.
“He had this book fully marked up,” Bondoni told The Daily. “Then he just recited it from memory and spoke so fast. It was so intriguing and terrifying for some reason but like cool. Like when you say, ‘oh, you fear God’: that was this man. So much poetic power.”
After Shel Silverstein came angst-driven poems in middle school and poems to aid emotional processing in high school. At the University, her time in the Lloyd Scholars for Writing and the Arts (LSWA) and her creative writing classes exposed her to the wider spectrum of poetry’s possibilities.
“I originally thought of free verse and not having to rhyme as freedom,” Bondoni said. “Forms or rhyme scheme is its own challenge and talent that I don’t think I had enough respect for until coming into college and actually trying it.”
Now, Bondoni double majors in Film, TV and Media Studies and English with a sub-concentration in Creative Writing, alongside minors in Writing and Environment. Her long list of interests pushed her to discover poetry’s playful malleability.
Early in college, Bondoni took English 223: Introduction to Creative Writing on a whim. Her LSA professor, Joseph Mahoney, encouraged her to pursue the poetry track of the English major’s creative writing concentration. This year, she will take English 428, the creative writing capstone, to finish her concentration. There, Bondoni hopes to write a poetry collection that traces her changing poetry and style over time, capturing her experiences from that fourth grade classroom to the present.
LSWA also exposed Bondoni to poetry performance. She recalled her first reading as “an experience and a half,” full of shaking hands and shallow breaths. But by the end of her freshman year, poetry performance became a playful experience for her, an opportunity for laughter. At one memorable event, she donned a winter trapper hat and sunglasses and enlisted a friend to play the bongos from the Donkey Kong game.
“I think that was kind of the turning point where I was like, ‘okay, it’s not something that I have to be nervous for because I’m expressing,’” she said. “It can also just be a release of tension.”
That artistic release provides a welcome relief from the flurry of emotions that college brings.
“It’s a good way of figuring out what I’m feeling,” Bondoni said. “In college you meet people and you’re thrown around emotionally. College is a washing machine that you have no control over; you are the last sock in the washing machine. As that sock, I find that poetry helps me kind of surface.”
Though poetry may seem divergent or even in opposition to the visual nature of her Film degree, Bondoni finds their marriage in screenwriting. The first time that she fully saw the connection was actually over Twitter, when someone tweeted screenshots from Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” script. The director is one of Bondoni’s biggest inspirations.
“The way that she writes her action lines and the script itself was beautiful. Some of the lines just sounded poetic with just a couple of analogies and metaphors that would really allow an actor to sink their teeth into the script,” she said.
Bondoni realized that this poetic approach allows screenwriters to leave their creative mark. She quickly gravitated toward TV writing — “There’s so much more room for character development in there,” she said. “You can really see so many different angles, multiple characters, and that really is so attractive to me.”
The playfulness of her poetry is not lost along the way: Finding shows that combine both heartfelt and comedic elements greatly appeals to her. Bill Hader’s “Barry” hit the right combination.
“Shows like that really inspire me to try to write more of a real story with comedic elements. I think that’s really the target I’m planning to land on aiming for,” said Bondoni.
Though asking a senior about their post-graduation plans can often cause anxiety, Bondoni knows that the film industry path, though challenging, is one she’ll continue chasing. She plans on moving to Los Angeles and holding onto her current screenwriting internship as long as possible.
“The way that the industry is set up is you really work bottom up. I want to be a showrunner ultimately,” Bondoni said. “That’s years of work set out in front of me, but that’s what it takes, and that’s what I’m willing to do, and that’s what you have to be willing to do to achieve that goal.”
All the while, poetry remains at the heart of Bondoni’s personality, continuously trickling into her screenwriting.
“A lot of the characters that one writes are very much based on the writer somehow. And, one of these days it’s gonna be a poet.”
The Playlist She Listens to on Fridays Now, Playlist Poetry by Kailyn Bondoni — in which the titles to songs come together to form one of Bondoni’s pieces — can be found here.