April 9, 2013

Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, April 5, Morning Readings

This morning again there were concurrent sessions & I opted for the North Lounge, readings by a new friend & an old friend.

Susan Gardner is an artist & poet & editor at Red Mountain Press.  She began with a poem she wrote in Spanish, then its English version, "Caja de Luz/Box of Light." The remainder of the poems she read were from her book To Inhabit the Felt World (Red Mountain Press, 2013). "Garden Bench" & "Montserrat Revisited" were longer poems, images draw from the natural world, while "Atlantic Flight" was more sparse, tense word play. Other poems were "Sticks & Stones," "Deep Water," the sadness of "Trilogy for My Daughter," & "Snowy Day." Another longer piece, "Partita," was in 3 parts, on relationships, sex, disease & forgiveness. She ended with what she called her "love letter to the New York Public Library."

I had met Ron Wallace on my first trip to Oklahoma, with Charlie Rossiter, to the Oklahoma Labor Fest & our trip to Albany, Oklahoma (yes, there is one), & again later at Scissortail. The kind of guy (cowboy hat & boots, Kenny Rodgers beard, ponytail) that challenges my urban East Coast prejudices while speaking to me from our shared working class poet backgrounds. & what's not to like about a guy who writes a book titled Hanging the Curveball: An Olkahoman's Love Affair with Baseball ( TJMF Publishing, 2012). He read the title poem, then a poem for his son Matthew ("Revelation"), & "Moonlight Grahm Steps Off the Field Again" (based on the Field of Dreams movie). Then on to his book of poem I Come From Cowboys, "Two in the Morning Train," "War Horses" (on the poets who have influenced him), "Gifts" (for Wayland Jennings), & "Comes Winter to the Night" (which he introduced by saying "loving baseball I have to hate Winter" -- oh yeah!). Then ending with 2 poems in both books, "Eastside Boys, We Ran" (growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in Durant, OK), & the wonderful coming of age poem "Learning to Speak Choctaw."

I took the next session off to go over my set list for my afternoon reading (see the next Blog).  With all these fine poets reading I didn't want to phone in my reading (not that is something I would ever do).  So I sat by the pool tables in the Cole Campus Center, watching students bend over the table, breaking, scratching, & sinking the 8-ball -- & reading over my poems.

The featured reader before lunch was Anna Myers, whom I'd met at the bar at Vintage 22 last night. She introduced herself as "Ben's Mom" (Ben Myers who read yesterday), but it was soon clear that indeed apples don't far from the tree. Anna is the author of a string of middle-grade & youth novels, often based on moments in history. But first she read from her forthcoming autobiographical picture book, Tumbleweed Baby, a charming, funny story of being "found" & welcomed into her family. She said she often goes into schools to talk about her books & takes on the persona of key characters, putting on a shawl or jacket & speaking in their accents. She gave us a sample from her book Tulsa Burning set in the 1921 race riots & from Time of the Witches, set in Salem, MA in 1692. She also gave us a taste of her unpublished novel for adults, Trashing Women, & funny stories of her grandchildren that she is turning into a chapter book.  Like I said, thrilled by writing that I never would have thought I'd be so entranced by, if I may be so un-grammatical in my enthusiasm.

Full bios of the authors can be found here at the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival Blog.

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