December 15, 2010

BookMarks: The Memoir Project Reading Series, December 13

"Siblings" was the theme for the third in this series at the Arts Center in Troy. Each reading has a different theme & is "curated" by a different woman (whoops, except the first one that I, a definite male, coordinated). Tonight's curator was Marion Roach Smith, who teaches memoir workshops at the Arts Center. It was mostly a reading of prose memoir, all women writers, with a lone poet making her second appearance in the series.

The first writer was Tina Lincer with "The Visit" from a longer work, "Confessions of a Reluctant Sister." Like most of what followed, it was a straight-forward telling of a family vignette. In this piece the narrator fights with with her mother & sister while making an apple pie.

Megan Galbraith's piece "Letter to My Younger Sister" was exactly that, an actual letter she wrote to her sister to give her life-advice about men, philosophical & big-sisterly.

Tanya Daniel's narrative, "My Brother, My Hero, My Guardian Angel," was a piece of direct family history & tribute, but marred by an overt religious/inspirational message of tenuous value to the story.

Mary Judd was the most seasonal with "Elfster and the Law of Attraction." Another real-life family story about drawing the name you least want on a gift-exchange website, with the new Age-y message of "think positive."

The night's lone poet was Leslie B. Neustadt whose poem to her sister, "Our Stories," showed how imagination infusing the memoir can turn a pedestrian story to art (& as Allen Ginsberg once wrote, "Maximum information, minimum number of syllables").

Similarly, Jennifer E. O'Brien, in her prose memoir "Penn Station," used an imaginative device of seeing but not meeting a brother she had not yet met to add emotional depth to what could have been a plain telling of a family story.

The last reader, Diane Cameron, wrote about the death of her brothers by weaving in the image of the Easter Bunny & her sick & dying brothers, as specific as teeth marks on the handles of her Easter basket, making an abstraction like "resurrection" alive in the image of a child's fantasy.

In between each reader, & at the end in a sort of summary, Marion Roach Smith interjected her own commentary on the writing, the themes, the techniques of each writer. I have my own way of doing things (cf. the reading I hosted here in this series in October), but none of this night's writing was so esoteric that one needed a guide to know where it was going, what the writers were saying. In fact, at times it seemed that Marion was conducting a class & telling us what to think. I prefer to let the work speak for itself.

Speaking of which, or not, there are 4 more readings in this series. You can find the schedule at the Arts Center website, as well as listings of classes & other events.

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