April 15, 2017

Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Friday, April 7 — Morning Sessions

Friday morning (& afternoon) there were once again competing sessions. Since I had traveled from Albany, NY with Sally Rhoades that made my choice easier -- she was in the first session. Besides, when I hear her read in Albany it is usually at an open mic where the poets are limited to 2 or 3 poems (sometimes only 1!), so this was a opportunity to hear her read an extended set.

Sally was introduced by the wonderfully exuberant professor Josh Grasso. Sally included a cluster of poems inspired by the readings & writers of Scissortail, such as her opening poem written the Sunday after last year’s festival “Truth Nips at Your Feet,” then “Climbing Mt. Joe” about a trip to the Adirondacks in New York State with Ken Hada, “Fire Flies & Cicadas for Ron Wallace” was actually an Albany poem for the poet from Durant, OK, & “Driving with my Aunt Polly” with her singing was inspired by Texas poet Carol Reposa last year. There were poems about her mother, including “Glazed Donuts.” At one point she put on her Women’s March “pussy hat” to read about her father & how her protests began in the womb. Go Sally!

Rob Roensch one of a number of the writers from Oklahoma University, read a story titled “Victor, Jonah, Laney,” about a young woman in a milltown in New Hampshire, a musician, working at Target, partying — good descriptive, narrative writing.

For the second half of the morning readings I stayed in Estep Auditorium, a difficult choice with good writers in both places, but I wanted to hear once again fellow New York writer, director & actor Paul Austin. He began with his latest poem based on a conversation with Ken Hada, a meditative piece about a visit to a family grave “If I Go Too Long.” He went on to a piece from his Mother & Son sequence, he at 14, with his mother chasing off a scam, then others, including a descriptive piece about Antonin Artaud in a film about Joan of Arc. He ended with a tour-de-force as a black street character, “Talking Blues,” a sermon on suicide, a great role.

Michelle Hartman is another favorite whom I like for her feisty performances (& interactions in real life). But today she began with a reading of her new book about the travels of someone abused as a child, Lost Journal of My Second Trip to Purgatory, including a multi-voice piece with Ann Howells “Oddly Oddly Oxen Free” about a brother’s abuse of his sister, then the chilling “Eyewitness Never Unscathed” about a sister beaten when she says she is gay. Others were equally grim, such as “Mother Committed Suicide” (but she didn’t), & one about escaping 2 bad marriages. The title poem of the collection is about a stint in a mental hospital. Mercifully she ended with a few of her poems not in the book, tinged with humor, even if a couple of them were about death, concluding with 2 satirical pieces, “Caught in the Crotch Fire,” & what she described as “a Deepak Chopra poem” “Fist Full of Pills.”

The last of the morning’s sessions started off with the former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma, Benjamin Myers. When I was here in 2013 I bought his book Lapse Americana (NYQ Books, 2013) which is one of the rare books I turn to on occasion to re-read some favorites. Today’s reading included some fascinating poems about being a professor, “A Brief But Not Brief Enough History of Boredom” a funny piece about a lecture on Dante, an introspective poem about being a professor “Cumae,” & “Shakespeare & Company” a meditation about rejection slips & papers to grade. His poems, while often humorous, also delve deeply into about what it means to be in the world with others, such as “Smith & Sons” about boys he grew up with, “The Angels of Juarez,” or “The Orphan” about watching his children playing imagining to be orphans stranded on an island.

One of the thrills for me for this year’s festival was the reading by Roxie Faulkner Kirk from her forthcoming novel, The Northeast Corner Section. She read from the first chapter, a story about a young woman who runs off to join “the Jesus circuit” as lead singer with an itinerant church, her husband the controlling full-of-himself reverend, & his father a domineering patriarch. It was one of those readings that made me want to run out to the book table & get a copy before everyone else buys them up, but, alas it is not out yet. & this was her first time reading out in public.

1 comment:

Ken Hada said...

thanks for all this Dan!! IT was great to be with you again. Ken Hada