April 12, 2013

Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, April 6

Last day of the festival & I opted for the readings in the Estep Auditorium, mainly to hear my friend Alan Berecka, but glad I did once I heard the other fine writers too.

Jessica Isaacs said she doesn't like to do intros for her poems & as a result she was able to cram in lots of poems. She began with a short series of poems about a woman in a hospital & nursing home, including "She Dreamed of Running…" (from the nursing home). Another chilling poem painted images of "little poinsettas in the snow…" as an aftermath of a school shooting. "Kitchen Moths" told of a woman going out at night in her nightgown. Another amusing poem told of a plan for sex on a trampoline ruined by stepping in dog-shit. She read a cluster of poems on World War II, including "Black Rain," & ended with a poem about exploring her heritage, "Black Dutch" (i.e., Indian). Good poems read in an expressive & intense spoken-word style that brought out the power of her lines.

The short story that George McCormick read, "The Mexican," was about a youth working loading ice into box cars filled with oranges, & I soon realized I had heard him read an earlier version of this story when I was here 2 years ago. It was/is a memorable story, the new version tighter, but more nuanced, & pleased to hear it again.

Jennifer Luckenkill had a quieter style of reading her poems than Jessica Isaacs. Many of her poems were about homes, about houses she has been in, with titles like "The House of Learned Empathy," "The House that Remembers," "Saying Goodbye to the House," & "Whispering Pines" (the name of a house her parents had lived in before she was born). The poem "Oceanfront Property in Oklahoma" was a satirical take on global warming & she pondered the afterlife in "Maybe This is All There Is."

Alan Berecka lives in the Corpus Christi, Texas area, but grew up in upstate New York outside Utica. After we became friends 2 years ago at Scissortail, I included him in the Poets in the Park series in July in Albany's Washington Park.  He began with the poem "Departures" from his book Remembering the Body (Mongrel Empire Press, 2011), then on to a couple of poems playing on religious themes from a new manuscript, currently titled "With Our Baggage" (for now). A couple poems were about working as a telephone operator, including "Nearly Gay Pride" when he was made an "honorary Lesbian." Another poem on how others perceive us, all told with ironic humor as many of his poems are, was about being called an "Anglo" at work, "Born Again Polish in South Texas." Other poems recalled baseball & a summer job on a garbage truck & his father heckling at hockey games, "Battle Cry."

Such is the great variety of ways of looking at the world & then writing it down & reading it to attentive listeners that is the pleasure of this Festival. But there is one more event to come -- or, as the Uncle Wiggly books used to say, "If global warming doesn't flood Texas & open up waterfront property in central Oklahoma, I will bring you the story of the Finale to the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival."

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