January 31, 2011

BookMarks: The Memoir Project Reading Series: War, January 24

This is the forth in this series held at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, tonight the theme was "War" selected & hosted by Robyn Ringler. There were nearly as many readers "on stage" as there were audience members. Also, different from other readings in the series, Robyn had asked members of the audience to read the intro/bios of the readers. Unfortunately, I lost track of who was who by the time each reader came up & they were not introduced again. But I was able to crib a playlist so at least I can match the photos to the faces.

After some introductory remarks (based on Philip Lopate's "The Art of the Personal Essay") the group began with "The Cacophony of War," a simultaneous group reading of their texts, a very effective introduction, contrasting with the individual texts that followed.

Leslie Neustadt was one of 3 poets among the mostly personal essays. However, her poems were scattered throughout the other readings, & included the humorous "The Invasion of Mus Musculus" told in "war" terminology. Her other poems were "In the Brig of Hadditha," "War's Coast," & "The Salt Wars." Leslie has had work in most of the readings in this series. The other poets were Sharon Chambliss with an all-too-brief "War of the Heart," & Elizabeth Gordon's "Brief," that told the story of Viet Nam vets tossing their combat medals over the fence of the White House.

Paul Donahue's untitled essay wondered what happened to his home-coming when he returned home from Viet Nam. During the break Paul told me he was a member of Veterans For Peace. Another piece about the Viet Nam era was Deborah Sabin's moving story, "Warrior," of a friend who did 4 tours in Viet Nam, his stories & his suffering with the effects of being poisoned by Agent Orange.

Essays about World War II included Frances Mantell's "A Child' View of War," David Nichol's memoir of packing his father's books (but only one about WWII), & David R. Wolcott reading from his father's World War II memoir.

Susan Nowogrodski showed us a different sort of conflict in a memoir that combined her father's writing about Poland & the at-the-time new Soviet Union, with her grandmother's stories of the Warsaw Ghetto.

R. Grayson Edick's essay about his experiences working in government intelligence on September 11, 2001 brought us closer to the current time; he used the images from that day to talk about the costs of war, turning his personal memoir to a political essay.

Robyn Ringler read the essay by Rob Mitchell, about his experience serving in Afghanistan; Rob is currently serving in Iraq.

BookMarks: The Memoir Project Reading Series continues through April at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy -- it's free.

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