April 11, 2013

Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, April 5 (Part 2), Afternoon & Evening Readings

Fortunately the scheduling of the readers in the next conflicting, concurrent sessions was such that I could catch my favorites in the first half of one & the second half of the other.

After the session I had read in I stayed in the Estep Auditorium to hear my friend Larry Thomas, a former Poet Laureate of Texas, & a great raconteur. He read a selection from his new book Uncle Ernest (Virtual Artists Collective, 2013)  The book is a narrative of 39 free verse poems in 3 to 5 syllable lines, set in the East Texas backwoods & the confines of an asylum for the criminally insane.

Elizabeth Raby is another fine poet (I bought her book of poems This Woman (Virtual Artists Collective, 2012)) whose work I first encountered here in Oklahoma 2 years ago, & was pleased to see her & her husband Jim again. Today she read from what she described as a 4-generation memoir, about why & how she ended up as a poet, Ransomed Voices (the title is from Emily Dickinson). One section was called "The Second Coming," about her wanting to be Jesus, trying to be a peacemaker. Another section was in the voice of her grandfather, teasing us to want to read the complete work.

From there I scooted over to the North Lounge. I caught the reading by Arn Henderson whose poems played on themes of architecture & descriptions of towns, then on to sad, tender poems about the recent death of his wife, who was also an architect & artist, poems of love & loss.

I have know Jeanetta Calhoun Mish the longest of any of the Oklahoma poets, in fact, she is the reason why I got here in the first place. She once lived in Albany, NY & her son Michael was born in Albany, a true "guy from Albany." But she is a native Oklahoman, & when we re-connected a few years ago she enabled me & Charlie Rossiter to get to still another Albany -- Albany, Oklahoma that is. Today she read from a book in progress, "How I Became White," mixing family tales, historical documents & her own imagination. She also read "A Letter to My Cousin" addressed to the wife of former vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, after reading W.E.B. DuBois on the slave question & racism. She ended with a piece, not her own, what she called "a gift," a segment of a prose fiction narrative written by her son Michael -- you know what they say about apples not falling far from the tree. I suspect we will be hearing Michael reading here at Scissortail some year.

After a break for dinner, we were back at the Estep Auditorium for a reading by Oklahoman novelist Constance Squires. She read from her novel Along the Watchtower (Riverhead Books, 2011), set in Germany at the end of the Cold War, a section where a young girl sneaks out to a rock concert with a punk-rock, Nazi wannabe G.I. She followed that with a short story about a female Iraq war veteran, "Unscheduled Stop," traveling through the world's largest McDonald's between Tulso & Joplin. Compelling, well-written story-telling.

Jonathan Isaacs plays before
Constance Squire reading
This was followed by a gathering at the Page One Literary Art Gallery, complete with great snack food, punch, sweet tea & jazz by The Moonlighters Combo. Arrayed around the room were poems & short prose on easels as if they were visual art, as indeed in the broadest sense they were. It was a chance to talk & hang out with some of the writers I've been hearing in the last couple of days in a relaxed, pleasant setting. A good way to end the day.

Full bios of the authors can be found here at the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival Blog.

No comments: