April 6, 2015

Scissortail Creative Writing Festival - Morning Sessions, Part 1, April 2

Back after 2 years, I was glad to see old friends & in the course of the 3 days make new ones. I had been to this Festival twice before; you can find my pictures from 2011 here, & my pictures from 2013 here, as well as the Blogs by exploring the chronological listings to the left.  It is held at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma each year, organized by Ken Hada who brings together regional poets & prose writers from across Oklahoma, Texas, & neighboring states, as well as errant poets from elsewhere, such as Sally Rhoades & me. I first met Ken in 2010 at the Oklahoma Labor Fest when the 3 Guys from Albany made a poetry pilgrimage to Albany, Oklahoma (south along the Red River). Ken told me about the Scissortail Festival & when I went the following year, I was hooked. This is no AWP — it is just writers reading to each other, selling our books to each other (facilitated by the great volunteer staff of students & professors), about as non-hierarchical & as egalitarian as it gets, with writers with contracts with major publishers at readings with self-published street poets, Poet Laureates (past & present) from at least 3 states listening to work-in-progress novelists & the unpublished. This year fellow Albany-poet Sally Rhoades had gotten on the program so we arranged to fly down together & share the cost of a rental car.

There were 2 sessions on the morning of Thursday, April 2, both in the Estep Auditorium at ECU, with the genial Ken Hada welcoming us & introducing the readers.

First up was poet Hank Jones, who began appropriately enough with a tribute “The Great Jim Spurr is Dead.” I had met Jim Spurr when I first came to Oklahoma in 2010, & he read at the other Scissortail Festivals I attended. Jim was a warm, funny, genuine poet who ran an open mic in Shawnee, OK (it was on the third Thursday so we joked that neither of us could get to the other’s open mic); he died suddenly in August 2014 at the age of 79. Hank’s second poem, “What I Learned in Boy Scouts,” was also dedicated to Jim because he so loved irreverence (the poem was about young boys & their genitals). Hank's other poems were about work cutting up a tree, writing, as well as making peace with a mosquito, as well as a marvelous meditative piece about walking his dog & jogging to a an old church at the end of the road.

Towards the end of the Festival I was lucky enough to get a copy of Jim Spurr's last book, Live Loud, Live Long, published soon after his death by Dorothy Alexander's press, Village Books Press of Cheyenne, OK.

Jessica Isaacs, who teaches at Seminole State College, has also read here before. About half her poems were from her collection Deep August (Village Books Press, Cheyenne, OK, 2014). I was impressed by a trio of eco-poems in the middle of her reading, including the political, environmental rant against the machine “Tender of Flesh” & 2 poems on slaughtering animals “Bovine” & “Pelts.” “Coyote” was a tender poem about a soldier visiting the grave of one of his buddies.

Ben Myers is the Poet Laureate of Oklahoma. I had bought his 2013 collection Lapse Americana (NYQ Books) when I was here last & still take it down from my shelf on occasion. His poems are descriptive, often narrative, such as “Grown Ass Man” & “My Grandfather’s Fake Rolex.” He said that as Poet Laureate he often has to write about disasters & read a couple, “After the Grass Fires” & “After the Ice Storm.” There were poems about guys he grew up with, such as “Reunion with Dumb Ass” & poems on small-town life, such as “One Horse Oklahoma Celebrates the 4th of July.”

This first morning session only wetted my appetite for more readings, but we all needed a brief break to catch our breaths & prepare ourselves for more good writing.  & this is only the first Blog of a series on the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival.

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