April 30, 2012

Testify!



Hallelujah! Literary culture is alive and well in this country, and I’m here to testify!

I’m writing this Friday night after attending the opening reading and gala for issue 2 of the Open Window Review. This online zine was founded six months ago by the poet Lori Howe and her class of creative writing students at Laramie County Community College, Albany County Campus.

I’ve know Lori for years. We got our master’s together back in the Oughts, and Laramie’s a small town, you know? You run into the same people all time in different capacities. Lori writes exquisite poetry and she also bakes the tastiest and most beautiful cakes.

The reading was wonderful. Lots of short pieces. All levels of writers. Lots of familiar faces too. Lori read one of her lovely poems. Court Merrigan, a Wyoming fiction writer from Torrington, came down and read a fabulous short fiction piece. The poet Shelly Norris, another person I know from the UW English department, read her wonderful poetry. (I just found out tonight we grew up in neighboring towns in northern Wyoming, only ten years apart.) David Romvedt, poet laureate of Wyoming, wasn’t there, but Open Window editor Jason Deiss read his work. Lindsay Wilson, another poet I know from UW, wasn’t able to attend so his work was read by Dylan Robinson. And I was introduced to all these new writers. I was particularly taken by the poetry of Abel Ruiz and Bret Norwood.

And it was well attended. There were 30 or 40 people, and that’s against the rock band Kansas who’s playing in town tonight.

As I sat there listening in the beautiful foyer of the building, the sun setting through the huge windows behind the readers, I thought: this is grassroots writing. I don’t know how to say this without sounding condescending ~ because I mean quite the opposite. By grassroots, I mean that it was the opposite of professional writing. Not that it wasn’t good. A number of the writers are well established, and others not so much, but all the writing shone like little jewels. By the opposite of professional I mean, it was people writing and reading who loved it, who are not in any way jaded, who were coming together in a communion of literary fellowship.

I feel unable to articulate exactly what I’m trying to say.

It was like a Pete Seeger gathering. Everyone sang and it all had such meaning and power. The news around the literary world and around publishing and around reading and writing and “kids these days” and all that ~ it seems the end of the world as we know it. But then, to attend this event, to worship at the altar of great writing, the rest of it is nothing but hot air.

This is what writing is about. Being human and connecting with your fellow human beings.

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