April 18, 2017

Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Saturday, April 8 — Morning Sessions

The final (half) day of Scissortail & like the opening morning, no conflicts, everything in Estep Auditorium. Sunny Smith did the introductions.

Ann Howells had already appeared briefly earlier in the festival assisting Michelle Hartman in a reading of a poem, this morning she had the podium to herself. She read from a manuscript “Conjuring the Chesapeake” largely memoir poems of St. George Island & Chesapeake Bay. The characters included her sister (“Frog Moon, Honeysuckle Moon”), “The Sage of St. George” who lived across from her grandmother & could stare down a hurricane, & a school-mate, the oh-so-perfect Mavis (“Mavis Farts” & “Mavis Abandons the Church”). She also read a couple poems about her daughter from a new chapbook.

A. W. Marshall began with a grim piece of “cold realism” that he also termed flash fiction (but it was way too long for that), “Clamped,” about someone whose daughter had been killed in an auto wreck suffocating the driver of another wreck. His second piece, “The Bend,” was a bit less grim absurdist fiction about the world of stuff that washed up on the inaccessible beach of a river bend — fascinating for the twisted images of improbable debris.

Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, the current Oklahoma Poet Laureate, is also an Albany poet: she had lived in Albany, NY a number of years ago, her son Michael was born in Albany, & her first featured reading was in Albany. She also was instrumental in bringing 3 Guys from Albany to Albany, OK & introducing me not only to the state of Oklahoma, but to Ken Hada who runs the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival. What she read was largely from her collection What I Learned at the War (West End Press, 2016), including the elegies “The Mice,” “Elegy for My First Boyfriend,” & “Pastoral for My Brother.” She also read a love poem for her husband “Arroyo Piño” & the long-lined ghazal “Driving Lost Roads Listening to Jedi Mind Tricks.” In between Jeanetta also trotted out a new poem, from a collaboration with a painter, the 2-part “Hunger.” I’m continuing to find great pleasure in reading her book back here in Albany.

After a break during which poets with long drives or flights to catch settled up with the book sellers, the readings continued with Andrew Geyer, now in South Carolina. He read a creepy prose piece in 3 parts built around the concept of synesthesia, about a school administrator faced with the dilemma of firing a lunch-room worker he has been lusting after.

Jenny Yang Cropp read from a poetry manuscript that she is working on, part of which explores the term “daughter” from the terms of a dictionary of the Bible. She also read from a set poems about “usage errors,” misunderstandings about words that take her into personal realms, such as “Translator” that dealt with an estranged relationship with her mother, “Mediocre” about her brother, “Opaque” & “Broom weed” leading to childhood memories.

Nathan Brown was the 2013/14 Poet Laureate of Oklahoma. He began with poems from his new book Don’t Try (Mezacalita Press, 2016) written with musician Jon Dee Graham with each poem titled with a line or phrase from the work of Charles Bukowski, such as “Every Time My Toilet Flushes,” “To My Critics” & the inevitable “Church is Over.” He also read poems from I Shouldn’t Say…: The Mostly Unedited Poems of Ezra E. Lipschitz, an alleged hermit who somehow also travels as a folk musician & storyteller. The write-up online says the book is published by Mezcalita Press (2017) (Nathan Brown is the publisher) but no price or ordering information is provided. The poems were funny, outrageous, a poke in the eye, much like Nathan’s own poems, like “Rules for the Starving Artist that Are Just Guidelines.”

One more surprise: Ken Hada invited Sunny Smith, who had been doing the intros this morning, as well at other times throughout the festival, to read her poem for her daughter "Dancing with the Dishes" -- a real keeper.

Only one more event, the Grand Finale, yet to come.

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