Thursday, May 19, 2005

Poetluck Reading

It was good -- but was it Branson good?

I overheard some people talking on the shuttle who said we were less than 50 miles from Branson, so they were going to drive up. If you don't know, Branson is sort of like the Las Vegas of Missouri, except without the gambling, hookers and celebrities. What does that leave? Andy Williams doing cabaret. Or so I've heard.

I was the featured reader for the "poetluck" dinner and I did actually start with a poem. Not mine of course, but the poetic chant from Æcerbot, the Anglo-Saxon charm to return fruitfulness to a field. I recited it in Old English then translated it into modern English, and explained what it was for, then used that to connect to the idea of linking to the past and its stories, as did the Kalevala and as I am trying to do with Unikirja.

I talked about the disparagement of fantasy in this country, contrasting it with magical realism--a much respected genre if you're South American. If you're Garcia Marquez, magic is wonderful; the rest of us are relegated to paperback. I mentioned the Finnish writers whose "realism" seems much more elastic, like Niemi and Sinisalo. I explained the idea behind Lönnrot's collecting of the poems for the Kalevala, that attempt to capture a swiftly disappearing heritage, and linked it to my attempt to imagine a heritage often lost even among his collections--the stories of women [those of you who have read "Kerttu" can see what I mean].

Perversely perhaps, I read from the incomplete story "Vipunen" which has only male characters, because it deals with the clash between rationality (in the person of the narrator, an MBA student) trapped in a mythological struggle between the rune singer Väinämöinen and the giant Vipunen. Well, I'm not sure how well it went over with the mostly memoirist crowd, but people did say I read very well, and at least a couple people told me they were very interested in the workshop I'm doing next week.

There were a wide variety of readers after me, including a couple of the other residents--Rebecca had some wild sexy poems that really got the crowd going, while Terri related a memory of her Cajun grandmother teaching her to cook. Other folks offered an equally diverse array: one woman's memory of being an 8 year old fleeing Germany with her mother and brother, in fear for their lives; some lively poems about the memorable little moments of life; a travelogue of Vicksburg and the caves employed during the Civil War; and the despairing thoughts of a longtime activist facing the relentless cruelty of the current administration.

A good night!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Branson is a great family vacation place. There are actually plenty of Branson attractions worth seeing.