April 7, 2015

Scissortail Creative Writing Festival - Morning Sessions, Part 2, April 2

We returned to the Estep Auditorium for 3 more writers, & an unexpected birth, so to speak. The readers were introduced by Mark Walling, Chair of the English Department at ECU.

karla k. morton is the 2010 Texas Poet Laureate & this was her first time at Scissortail. I learned later at lunch that in Texas a Poet Laureate is identified by the year they are appointed, but then serve for life; it is an unfunded position but the 2 from Texas I have met (the other is Larry Thomas, more on him in subsequent posts) are energetic, active, hard-working promoters of poetry & poets. karla read from her 2014 collection Constant State of Leaping (Texas Review Press), but has at least 6 other books of poetry out there. Reading her poems later I was glad I bought the book to bathe in the deep waters of the poems, such as “Adytum” (a sacred place). She also read poems of parenting such as “Teenage Burning” & a poem about her father & brother playing catch “Passing the Gauntlet” that brought tears to my eyes, remembering playing catch with my father & later with my sons & daughters. Early in her reading she introduced us to “Margo,” a chrysalis she was tending, done up in a colorful basket, protectively wrapped in gold tulle.

George McCormick was another writer I had seen & heard read here at earlier festivals. Today he read from a forthcoming novel, Inland Empire. The narrator in the story was a photographer who has moved to Oklahoma & while doing research about the State discovers annotations in a book on, of all things, grain elevators that starts a chain of research, thoughts — about learning to see.

R. (Raquel) Flowers Rivera was here for the first time & read from her 2nd collection Heathen (Lotus Press, 2015), which was the winner of the 2015 Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award (selected by E. Ethelbert Miller). The poems she read were a re-mix of classical myths on contemporary situations, such as “Lady Tiresias, Seven-Years a Woman,” “Sisyphus” (on raising children), “The Achilles Poem” on the nature of relationships, &, among others, my favorite “Hera Has Her Say” in which the wife of Zeus is talks in bitter commentary on her life in a small Southern town. These were not a re-telling of the stories, but using the characters as modern day figures, inventive & moving.

Then, just as the reading ended, karla announce that the chrysalis had burst forth into a butterfly — obviously warmed & stimulated by the words filling this grand auditorium. Margo was then taken outside & released in a sheltered & quiet place. Who was it who said (or “says” all the time) “poetry doesn’t do anything”? Well, perhaps it just birthed a butterfly — you know the ancient Greeks saw the butterfly as the image of the soul.

It was an over-whelming start to the Festival. More to come.

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