Monday, March 2, 2009

Coverage of the Bloomington Reading: "The Writer in the World"

Thanks to Bene Viera for covering our reading last Thursday in Bloomington; we all had a blast. p.s. the poem is called "Cell/(ph)one"

Panel features alumni literature
By Bene Viera | IDS

A burst of laughter erupted from the audience as one poet and three volunteers performed a piece that demonstrated common annoyances and gibberish transported through cell phones.

ArtsWeek’s “The Writer in the World” showcased four published writers and graduates of IU’s MFA Creative Writing Program to read from their works and answer questions.
In correlation with ArtsWeek’s theme, “Politics and the Arts,” the two poets and two fiction writers read excerpts from their works they believed to be political in some form.

“Being political is challenging, by making people uncomfortable by talking about topics they normally would not,” poet Mitchell Douglas said.

The first panelist, Danit Brown, provided insight to the life of a Jewish-American woman through the character Harriet in her short story “The Dangers of Salmonella.” The short story is featured in her collection titled “Ask for a Convertible.” Brown’s story explores a young woman’s quest for acceptance of her Jewish heritage.

“She had chosen to attend Northcrest, a small college in southern Michigan, mainly because it wasn’t in Indiana, where the women were either blond or dyed their hair blonde and where people referred to Harriet as ‘you know, the dark one,’” Brown said, reading from her story.

Douglas read selections from his debut book “Cooling Board: A Long-Playing Poem,” which is a tribute to the life of one of his favorite musicians, Donny Hathaway. He said his creativity inspired him to write the book in a conceptual album format presenting narratives on two sides. The room filled with silence as Douglas read from his poem
“The Music: An Explanation to Miss Martha.”

“I wrote it for you, Grandma, a Sunday song to swing the choir’s robes ... his eyes on my eyes, fixed, never falling, the way the future unfurls, his fingers still planted on the keys, I can’t help but believe,” Douglas said, reading from his poem.

Theft is a combination of politics and fiction, which shows the economic differences between the native African and tourist, said N. S. Koenings, an IU graduate who said returning to read her work was an honor.

“It is nice to feel like I have a home,” she said.

Concluding the panel was Philip Metres, who not only read from his works but also did two demonstrations. “Sell the Phone” included three volunteers who all read different phrases along with Metres and spoke at the same time. This skit was a comedic satire on how cell phones have become a necessity for many people.

“Hello, hello. Can you hear me? The number you’ve dialed is not valid. Blah blah blah, blah blah,” they all said simultaneously.

Both Koenings and Brown said their works actually began from their theses written at IU. Douglas said it is important to contribute by allowing the students in the program to see published writers who have become successful.

“You have to be incredibly stubborn to be successful as a writer, but stubborn in the right ways,” Metres said. “Being stubborn in the wrong way is to think your writing is great the way it is.”

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