April 23, 2020

Capital Region Earth Day Marathon Reading, April 22

Another online reading during this time of being sent to our rooms, this one sponsored by the Albany Public Library Foundation & the consortium of groups organizing a string of events in the Capital Region to celebrate Earth Day & Earth Day’s 50th Birthday. In the grand style of the Readings Against the End of the World, the annual 24-hour reading/performance marathon organized on or close to Earth Day from 1984 to 1993 by Tom Nattell as a fund-raiser for the Albany Peace & Energy Council, this year’s marathon reading was essentially Sunrise to Sunset. I joined in sometime after 6:00AM & hung around all day until 8:00PM, with the sound of people reading wafting through my house all day. Also on all day were organizers Lex Bhagat, Anne Erling, & Amy Forando. Lex & Anne served as hosts throughout the day while Amy smoothly handled the online logistics.

There was a great variety of literary works -- of course poetry, prose fantasies, children’s books, scientific/environmental articles, even the text of speeches by Al Gore & Greta Thunberg. I OD’d a bit on Mary Oliver, but that was to be expected, fortunately that was balanced by 2 or 3 folks who read Wendell Berry, & even 2 readings of Elizabeth Bishops’ poem “The Fish.” Early in the AM, & in the afternoon, I filled in during gaps with selections from Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology edited by Melissa Tuckey.

Someone read a story by Ursula Le Guin, Pippa Bartolotti read from her post-apocalyptic novel Barbarian, Cara Benson read from the manuscript of her novel How To Live In End Times, & Silvia Lilly charmed us with a segment from Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. Paul Grondahl read poetry by Diane Ackerman & Mayor Kathy Sheehan read Mario Cuomo’s charming children’s book The Blue Spruce. The youngest reader was Lex’s daughter during “The Children’s Hour” which included a sing-a-long with Kim Tateo.

There was also a lot of original work from local poets such as Therese Broderick, Paul Lamar, Mary Ann Murray, Lucyna Prostko, Sarah Giragosian & others, including me.

As typically happens with any marathon reading there were frequent gaps & changes of who was reading when from the schedule put together by Lex & the others. This is not uncommon even with in-person marathons, with readers just not showing up, or having a sudden “emergency” & needing to read earlier or later than scheduled. This was compounded this day by it being on a digital platform, specifically Google Hangout. Some folks perhaps were flummoxed by the sign-in process & got on late, or never, some were confused by the computer screen, the icons, whatever, with “can you hear me” a frequent refrain. But then that happens too when you put a microphone in front of some people on stage. It’s not Hollywood, nor is it meant to be, nor would I be there if it were.

It was as Earth Day should be -- people from the community at large sharing, in this case words, their own, those of others they admire or who have moved or inspired them. Sorry you missed it? Or, want to hear it again? Visit the Capital Region Earth Day website or check it out on YouTube.

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