Author Archives: Nicole Ratliff

I am an English Major: Austin Jones


The very first word that comes to my mind when I think of Austin Jones is passionate. He loves what he does and wants to tell the whole world about it. At BYU’s most recent poetry slam, Jones stole the show with his performance of the Unapologetic English Major.

We were so impressed by his performance that we couldn’t wait to interview him and get the details on his literary life. Below you can find an insider’s look into our interview with Jones and see that he’s not only awesome while performing, but also he’s an amazing person in real life.

Q: Why do you love being an English Major?
I became an English Major because I thought math and science were boring. What I mean by that is when you learn that 2 + 2 is four everybody gets the same answer. I get four, you get four, the quiet kid in the corner gets four, the professor gets four, and then we just move on to learning something else. But in literature there is never really a right answer. The things we learn aren’t as black and white. Was Gatsby really great? Or was he just a loser? What is a particular poem trying to say about society as a whole? Those questions don’t really have a real answer so we can talk about it forever. Characters, people, situations, etc are so complex that person A and person B can arrive at different conclusions which can ultimately both be accurate; as well, each person in the room can contribute their unique life experiences to the idea giving it yet another interesting layer to investigate. Now that is way better than a class where everyone is hoping to find the same boring answer to a problem.
Then once we arrive at a suitable conclusion we learn how to effectively communicate the answer we arrived at and why we find that particular answer persuasive. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that the morality of Jay Gatsby’s actions does not actually matter in the slightest, nor are Shakespeare musings about love and relationships in sonnet 130 really important to my daily life, but the skills of honest and deliberate analysis and the ability to clearly articulate your findings are the most useful skills that I can think of. At least that’s what I hope the English major will do for my classmates and I.
Q: Could you explain a little bit about your performance and why you chose that topic?
I’m Glad you used the word performance. Slam poetry really is a performance. Some poetry is best read alone on a quiet night, some poetry is best read as a small group sitting in a graveyard, but slam poetry is meant to be performed.  To be honest, if you read my poem out of a book it would probably suck, because I’m not really hoping to just impart a bunch of words to the audience I am hoping to conjure a certain feeling. I want my audience to feel passion, I want them to feel a fire, I want them to feel excitement, and the thing I love about performing slam poetry is that if you do it right, you can become the very personification of the feelings you are trying to convey.
So that’s why I try and get so loud. I tried to start more quiet and conversational and then work myself up until I became more aggressive, loud, and passionate. I flail my arms around a lot and try to make over-the-top movements all to contribute to that same sense.
I’ve actually been thinking about writing this poem for a long time but I was hesitant to because I didn’t want to send the message that slam poetry, or any poetry, is just for English Majors. Great poets can come from any background and one of the points of slam poetry is that everyone has a unique story and point of view to be shared. That being said, I chose this topic because I am often frustrated by the stereotype attached to the English Major as being pointless and a dead end. Like I say in the poem,

“words are powerful.”

I know that that is a cliche but I when I say it I don’t want it to sound that way. I’ve been able to spend the last almost four years filling up my head with the words of some of the most brilliant and influential people to have ever lived. That’s changed me as a person for the better and I believe that in some small ways it has begun to give me the ability to persuade other people to think about the world differently. After every performance I’ve had lots of people approach me and tell me how much they like my poems. to those people, I am flattered, but my secret is that if my poems impress you or make you feel anything at all it’s not because I am some awesome genius writer but it is because I have spent a long time absorbing the great work of other people. and that’s something else I love about the English major is the opportunity to just soak up the words of brilliant men and women. 
Q: What are your other hobbies/interests?
I really believe in being well rounded. Of course I love all that other ‘English majory’ stuff too: I love books, theater, poetry and I love Harry Potter. However, I also love sports. I play volleyball, I snow ski, I wakeboard, I hike, I’m training for a half marathon. I play guitar and  bass and even sing when the moods right. I really enjoy going to concerts, especially ones where there is standing room only so I can dance and mosh and whatnot. I absolutely love to cook. Food is a big deal for me. I love to experiment with everything from Chinese food and Indian curry to BBQ and hot wings.
Q: What are the coolest things about you?
-This is actually the third poem I have written that has won the English Society poetry Slam. I was also able to perform a poem for the hunger banquet last year too, So I am starting to gather a stack of poems that I am moderately proud of.
-I served as a mandarin speaking missionary in the Scotland/ Ireland Mission, I know it sounds weird but it was great.
-I love to travel, I did the BYU London center study abroad last fall and lived in Kunming China last summer
-I was actually born in Holland, because my father was in the air force. I’m not sure If I could be president or not……
-I NEVER match my socks.
Q: What do you want people to know about your poetry, poetry slams, and the English major?
Slam poetry is awesome and for everyone! I’ve never met someone who didn’t like it once they gave it a chance
My poetry is important to me. I know that it is a success when I can get the audience to feel something. I love the challenge that that brings. I have three minutes to try and transport you to a different place with a different mood then the one you are currently in and all I get to use is my voice. It is so great when the audience responds with laughs or cheers or whatever because I know that I have hit a nerve. It’s even better when I see that something I have said sinks into someone’s head. Our thoughts are just an amalgamation of ideas from all over the place and I can’t think of a better honor then to have someone allow a thought from my head to germinate in theirs.
lastly about the English Degree….. an English degree is not about becoming your elderly high school English teacher who dinged your grade for having a misplaced comma, or who always corrected your grammar by interrupting you mid-sentence. I’ve never taken a single grammar or editing class at BYU. Sure grammar and commas are important, they are the tools of the trade. Of course a carpenter knows  about saws and wood and safety goggles but you are totally missing the point of what a carpenter is capable of creating if you waste any time at all fixated on his knowledge of saws, wood, and goggles. However, while a carpenter’s finished products are cabinets and tables a writer/poet/speaker/etc. finished product is the material of persuasion: people who have received a new perspective, or who have been persuaded to view the world differently, and when you really think about it, that is a whole lot of power.
AJ 1

Austin is a slam poet, a musician, an athlete, a performer, and an English Major.

If you haven’t seen Austin’s performance yet, check it out here!

Reviews and Recommendations: Stranger Things


Yes. The show that everyone’s been talking about: the one with 5 ten-year-old kids, one of which runs around in a pink dress and hair shorter than any of the boys surrounding her. “Stranger Things,” a new series on Netflix, has become so popular within the past couple weeks it wouldn’t be surprising if a new cult following resulted.

Back in the day when children played imaginative board games, the world of four misfit kids (and eventually the entire town and some obscure part of the government) is literally turned upside down when one of them goes missing. On the other side of town, a runaway little girl sporting a crew cut and a hospital gown shows up at a hamburger joint. It’s not long before the CIA shows up, armed, searching for her. The real adventure begins when Will’s closest friends and relatives puzzle-piece their conspiracy theories together, realizing that he’s not only alive, but has been taken by an untraceable monster: the demi-gorgon.

ST 1

Being a fan of fantasy and kids being sucked into other worlds, I was immediately addicted to this show. From the first episode, the plot twisted in ways least expected. Whether it was an alien abduction, an alternate dimension, or fantasy world that Will had been trapped inside of, the only way to figure it out was just to KEEP WATCHING. When viewers finally figure out what is going on, everything makes sense, leaving out annoying plot holes or bent fantastical rules.

ST 2

#Netflixaddictionisrealguys. Each of the characters were real to me and deliciously hate-able or lovable. It won’t be long before new watchers will find themselves shouting advice to the snarky sheriff with detective abilities rivaling Shawn Spencer (Psych) and the mother who may or may not be going crazy with grief. Some moments in the show were incredibly touching, emphasizing the sweet relationship between mother and child.

ST 3

The child actors were so believable and outshined some of the adult actors out there. For those of you not completely into the alternate dimension plotline, never fear: there is much drama to be had. Romance? Got it. Dysfunctional families and complicated relationships all around? They got that too. I would recommend Stranger Things to anyone aching for adventure. Just make sure to have 8 hours to kill before doing so, because once you begin there’s no way to stop.

All About Us- BYU’s English Society


Do you love literature?

Do you love to read and/or write?

Are you an English Major or Minor?

Are you interested in finding out more about career options with an English Degree?

Are you interested in becoming a part of a community of people with similar interests as you?


If you answered yes to any of the questions above, then you’ve come to the right place! In addition to being a member of a community that loves literature and the English language, the English Society also offers insights to possible career paths, fun activities and social events, guides to surviving life as an English Major, AND SO MUCH MORE!

We are your classmates, friends, and even mentors, with one goal: To make your time here at Brigham Young University the BEST it can be. Whether it is helping you find your place amongst the crowds of people, pointing you in the right direction for success, or opening your mind up to the millions of possibilities and opportunities that are right in front of you- we are here for you! Plus, we will be hosting a Harry Potter (November) and Poe (October) Party this semester, and you don’t want to miss out on the fun!


So what are your waiting for? To get involved come to our OPENING SOCIAL this Thursday, September 15 at 5:00pm for games, food, and fun! We will also be introducing some of our officers as well as offering ways that you can get involved!

The English Society is the BEST Society. So join the fun now!

My Study Abroad Experience

by: Jacquelyn Dunn

JD Study Abroad

I had one objective in mind with my study abroad—make friends with people who had similar interests to mine. This seemed simple enough, especially since it was a Theatre and English study abroad in London, and who doesn’t love plays, books, and Britain? Even so, I was nervous. I’d traveled with groups before and always struggled to find people who I could really relate to. I was searching for people who would discuss ideas with me—people who weren’t afraid to have an opinion and stand up for it.

Luckily, the London Theatre program was full of such people. I was amazed after the first show we went to that everyone came out with outlooks completely different from mine, and they were more than willing to talk about it. Everyone was passionate about what they thought, but also willing to listen to the views of their peers. Pretty much every conversation ended with laughter and no hurt feelings, just expanded perspective and strengthened friendships.

JD Study Abroad 1

I remember one particular night after an especially intense production of Richard III. I was pretty shaken up about some of the content of the play and needed to discuss it, so a friend and I made our way to a café that was open late. We started talking about the play, but our conversation soon morphed into a deep discussion about our philosophies on education and family life. We talked for hours and commented multiple times about the fact that we were sitting in a European café while discussing idea, just like hundreds of great minds before us. I remember walking home that night and feeling an overwhelming amount of love for my friend and gratitude for the experiences we were having.

JD Study Abroad 2

Throughout the program, I came to consider everyone as a friend, but I was worried that when we all returned home and the magic ended our friendships would dissolve in the rush school, work, and other commitments. We all promised to keep in touch, but how often do people actually keep those kinds of promises? Only the best kinds of people, and fortunately for me, my study abroad friends were the best. Since we were spread out all summer from California to Thailand, we kept up with one another through Facebook messenger. We shared funny videos and memes, talked about articles we were reading, and encouraged each other on almost a daily basis. When we all got back to school this fall our reunion was sweet. We fell right back into our habits of discussion and it was like we were right back in London.

JD Study Abroad 3

The people I met on my study abroad experience are some of my favorite humans. They’re brilliant, kind, funny, and supportive; their friendship made the London Theatre Study Abroad the best part of my college experience to date.


Another Successful Slam

Even with drawbacks of hosting on Labor Day Weekend, the crowd at the Wall last Saturday did not fail to impress, with 220 people in attendance. And the performers brought their A-game too!

Many poets recalled adventures over the summer, Eston Dunn talked about his potentially drug-dealing roommates, and Jenny Rollins hit hard at what it actually means to go through divorce. Austin Jones opened strong in defense of English Majors everywhere in a poem that would eventually earn him the title of Best Overall performance of the night.

The entry price for the slam was a total of 17 syllables in the form of a haiku, and 16 people were called up from the audience during half-time for the haiku off. The four winners then went onto a second round at the end of the slam with improvised haikus including the word of the day: Fist-fight.


Special Congratulations to our winners! From left to right: Comedy (Katie Jarvis), Haiku Champion, Romance (David Bates), BestOverall (Austin Jones), and Dark Horse (Anneka Winder)!

If you didn’t get a chance to make it to this slam, be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for the next amazing event!


Our Top 10 Books to Read This Fall


Another season, another semester which means another list of books to conquer. If you are looking for a place to start, we can help! Check out The English Society’s Top 10 picks to read this semester!

“I Capture the Castle” by Dodie Smith.


Based in the 1930s, Cassandra and Rose Mortmain are the daughters of a peculiar author suffering from writer’s block. Living in a run-down castle, Cassandra plots to end their financial struggles involving two American men, a slimy photographer, and the dungeon of the castle tower. -Eliza Howard

‘The Latehomecomer’ by Kao Kalia Yang.


The target of genocide in retaliation for aiding the Americans in the Vietnam War, the Hmong are an ethnic group who were violently driven from their homes in the mountains of Laos. In her memoir, Yang recounts her family’s journey from their homeland to multiple refugee camps in Thailand, and finally to a new and unfamiliar life in America. Filled with graceful prose, Hmong folklore, and childhood memories, ‘The Latehomecomer’ is just as beautifully captivating as it is fascinating and informative. -Emma Nymoen

‘These Is My Words’, by Sarah Prine.


It’s a memoir about her life growing up on the western frontier and all of the challenges that she faced. My favorite part is that Sarah’s voice comes through so clearly! I can empathize with her because I feel like I’m there on the range with her. -Shelby Ward

“The Lunar Chronicles”by Marissa Meyer.


It follows the story of a cyborg and her friends (all loosely based on fairytale characters) who get caught up in the middle of tensions between the people of Luna (the moon) and Earth. What I loved most about the series was how well-developed the characters were; as a reader, you become so invested in each of them and their growth, and you aren’t disappointed. -Anika Argyl

“Everything is Illuminated” (and everything else)  by Jonathan Safran Foer


The book really challenges what constitutes a novel as the chapters alternate.The whole thing is a weird mess that I can’t ever seem to put down. The writing is awesome and it captures the spirit of the Old Testament in a lot of ways. -Davis Blout

“Alanna: The First Adventure” by Tamora Pierce.


Alanna, a young girl trades places with her twin brother to become a knight. She overcomes social norms, palace protocols, and the law in this first book of a fantastic new world. -Marissa Brown

“Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris.


I read it a long time ago and recently picked it back up. The reason I love “Me Talk Pretty One Day” is because David Sedaris has perfect command over his writing. His personal anecdotes, while at face value are not particularly interesting or surprising, are made to be clever and unique through creative word choice and sentence structure. It is also a great book to read out loud to family and friends. Every time I read this book, I end up calling my husband or my grandparents to share it because I am in tears from laughing so hard. -Lainey Wardlow

“No Matter the Wreckage” by Sarah Kay


The only poetry book you’ll find in Barnes and Noble published in the last 50 years, No Matter the Wreckage is a brilliant collection by a young poet, Sarah Kay, from New York. Sarah Kay writes beautifully about city life and family and love and loss, and everything you could want from a book of poetry. She’s influenced by her travels and her experience with Spoken Word in a way that brings fresh insight into the same stories we’ve all heard before. -Madelyn Taylor

“A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway


It’s a good story and the writing style is so weird and different that it might be a nice change. – Deborah Jenson

“The Complete Poetry of Edgar Allen Poe” by Edgar Allan Poe


There’s no better read during the fall season than Edgar Allan Poe. His Annabel Lee is haunting yet beautiful. The Raven is chaotic with a supernatural atmosphere. A great read during the month of October especially, although any time is a good time to read Poe. -Nicole Ratliff

Tell us what you think and share with us the books you think we should add to our NEXT reading list!

The English Major’s Guide to Days Off

bed with book

It’s the second week of school and already we have been blessed with an extra long weekend. Thank you, Labor Day! For those who don’t have plans, and for those that do, here are some new ideas to make your day off full of fun and excitement!

And if you haven’t checked out our other blog posts, click here to see our 3 Part How to Survive the First Week of School for English Majors Series.

Catch Up or Get Ahead


As of last Friday, we have all seen the daunting lists of reading assignments, papers, and presentations that will be completed throughout the semester. Even if you’re the biggest literature lover, syllabi are more than overwhelming, especially when you realize that you’re already behind. Although not the first thing you would think to do on your day off, use this time to get caught up. And even get ahead you overachievers! Your sanity will thank you later.

Get Moving


Has anyone else seen those rad workouts you can do while binge watching your favorite TV show? How about applying that to your favorite book? Add exercise to your reading today! Try this:

     10 Crunches- Anytime the main character says their catch phrase

     15 Jumping Jacks- When your prediction comes true

     10 Squats- Anytime the protagonist resolves a conflict or does something noteworthy

     And finally two laps around your living room- As a way to celebrate finishing another          chapter

Keep count of the workouts and after finishing a chapter get your heart rate up!



Why just read about adventures? Days off give you the perfect opportunity to create your own experiences, and live in your own novel! So tackle that mountain you have always wanted to climb- literally and figuratively. Get a group of friends to come with you or embark on your journey alone. Today is another opportunity to live the life you have been reading about.



Sometimes during the semester it seems like your social life is falling to the wayside as you fill up your time with work, classes, studying, and the millions of responsibilities that seem to grow exponentially in the next few weeks. Take this time to catch up with friends you haven’t seen the entire summer, get to know your neighbors and new roommates, and you could even take this time to create that book club you’ve always wanted. Get together with friends, people from your classes, and anyone else who wants to join the fun and create lasting friendships through your love of literature!



If those other options weren’t what you were looking for, don’t worry! We have the thing for you! How about try relaxing? Curl up with your favorite book, blanket, or human and dive back into the summer read you are dying to finish. Or watch the movie interpretation of your favorite novel… Because we all know that you’ll never say no to a Harry Potter Movie Marathon. Take this time to relax from the stresses of the first week of college and rejuvenate so that you’re ready for the rest of the semester!

We hope that you enjoyed our Guide to Days Off for English Majors! Let us know what you do on your days off and enjoy the rest of your long weekend!


Tonight is the night! Check out the first poetry slam of the FALL 2016 Semester! Hang out with your friends, watch amazing performances, and learn how you too can get involved in the event. It’s the hottest topic on the streets!

Poetry Slam

So come have fun and kick off the school year right with the BYU Saturday Night Slam Series!