So this was it, the last morning of the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, but still plenty of creative words left to share.
XXIII. Regents Room
There were too many favorites in this session to miss it, starting off with the always entertaining Woodstok (that’s how he spells it) Farley (aka Michael Dooley). He read from his latest memoir of a wandering beach-bum from south Florida longing for his home, Go West, Young Longhair, Go West, this excerpt about his arrival in Oklahoma wearing overalls (because that’s what people there wear, right?) & its consequences.
Ann Howells began with poems she has been writing about the Chesapeake Bay waterman’s culture, descriptive pieces, such as “Cicada Sound Track,” & “Gone & Others Like It” about a decaying boat, as well as portraits of Ziggy, & Terrance & others. These were published in a book titled So Long As We Speak Their Names (Kelsay Books) in 2019. She also read from Painting the Pinwheel Sky (Assure Press, 2020) “Self-Portrait with Bandage 1889” & “Vincent Speaks from the Grave” persona poems in the voice of Vincent Van Gogh.
Paul Austin, originally from Boston, now in Oklahoma, also had a place in Woodstock, NY, has had an impressive career as an actor. He read selections from a book of prose poems he has been working on about a boy, Tommy McSweeney & his mother in Boston, the pieces he read included “The Ferry” about the mother, another about the boy’s break from his mother when he graduates from high school & wants to be an actor. He ended with a moving political piece “The Children of Ukraine.”
XXIV. Estep Auditorium
Michael Howarth (whom everyone calls Howie) read from his 2021 gothic historical novel A Still and Awful Red (which is a line from “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”) told in the first person by Maria, about meeting the Countess, her duties, a tour of the castle, all with a tone of foreboding.
Julie Chappell is another regular here, with her partner Hank Jones. She began with poems from Mad Habits of a Life (Lamar University Literary Press, 2019), some poems of the day-to-day, such as “As I Was Dusting,” Keith Jarrett & My Sister,” “Lament on Fire Ants.” From her latest book As I Pirouette Away (Turning Plow Press, 2021) she read more poems, “Listening to Baudelaire on a Sunday Morning” with sounds, sights of Oklahoma, “Aubade with Spiders,” another where she mixes ancient Egypt & her fear of scorpions, “Symmetry” (images of war & the greedy), & “Full of Holes” (a homemade colander & the pandemic now & 1918. She finished up with poems from a new manuscript, which perhaps we’ll hear more from at the next Scissortail.
It was fitting to hear the venerable Dorothy Alexander here in the final hours of Scissortail. There are many poets I want to hear when I come to Ada for this festival but the one I must hear is Dorothy. She is a powerful voice for poetry & for the defense of social justice, a role model & more so an Elder in the most profound sense of that word & concept. I refer you to her bio (see the link below) to give you an inkling of this powerful woman. She began quoting Cicero on memory then read from her new chapbook Memory Keeper (Village Books Press in Santa Fe, MN), the title poem perhaps a self-portrait. Other poems about her father, her grandmother, grandfather, “My Mother & the Wild Geese,” “Ready of Not” (teenage memory of getting ready for school), “Got Leaving on My Mind,” & “Riding in the Rumble Seat.” At one point she asked how much time she had, & someone in the auditorium who had obviously been here before called out, “You’re Dorothy!” The poem “The Promise” was about her son who died, another was about an AIDS patient she had taken in to her house. There was the strident “Letter to Oklahoma,” & when she asked the moderator again how much more should she read the moderator said, “Straight from Ken Hada, let her have as much time as she wants,” & everyone agreed. She ended with a funny rhyming ditty about growing older, ending with the lines “… & I get gayer & gayer.” That’s Dorothy & why we love her.
XXVI. Grand Finale
Winding down, it was time for the awards in the Darryl Fisher High School Creative Writing Contest, with professors Joshua Grasso (poetry judge) and Mark Walling (fiction judge) announcing the winners from high schools all over Oklahoma, many of whom were in the audience. You can find the full list of the winners here.
The third & final Featured Author of the Festival was Jennifer Givhan, who read poetry & excerpts from her novels. She was an energetic reader of her poems, her poem “The Cheerleaders” owed a lot to Slam. Her novel Trinity Sight was post-apocalyptic fiction built on Pueblo beliefs; she also read from Jubilee which was her first novel written but second one published, & from a novel-in-progress. She commented that when she was growing up & in school that she “didn’t know there were living poets, or Latino or people of color writers,” now pleased to be out there publishing & reading her work for younger writers.
It was only fitting that the final reader of the 17th Annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival was one of the winners of the Undergraduate Creative Writing Contest, representing the future of writing. Laurence Foshee read a piece of creative non-fiction, based on the Led Zeppelin album 4, his thoughts walking home from work, a catalog of 20th century music & references to the pandemic.
I went away from these 2 1/2 days exhausted, exhilarated, & already thinking of returning next year. There is no hype, no crowds, no pretentious panels or workshops, just writers reading to writers, hanging out, making friends. Join us next year.
[Biographies of each of the readers can be found at https://ecuscissortail.blogspot.com/2022/01/2022-scissortail-biographies.html]