Saturday evening New South, the GSU literary journal, hosted a reading at the Highland Inn Ballroom in Atlanta. James May, editor-in-chief of New South, invited me to read, along with fiction writer Jody Brooks and poet Jessica Hand. Jessica is completing her MFA at Georgia State, and Jody is a lecturer at GSU in the creative writing program. Both writers have received many awards for their work.
Here is a sample of Jessica Hand’s poetry, from Limp Wrist, titled “Ode to My Pentecostal Right Arm.” She is a very animated, passionate reader who knows not only how to write, but how to deliver. She read a few poems about the Iraq War, and others about being gay and how she and her wife react to the world. She also read some poems about a fictitious character named Jane. Very imaginative work.
Here is one of the short stories Jody Brooks read, from the e-zine Hot Metal Bridge, titled “The Fire Extinguisher Grenades.” This story reflects her previous profession as an architect. Her prose is elegant, understated, and full of concrete imagery that becomes symbolic as the narration progresses. I’m looking forward to reading a whole collection by Brooks.
I read two new poems that I’ve worked on this semester at GSU in the poetry workshop I’m taking, as well as two older poems. I also read a short story that was recently up at Scapegoat called “Foreclosure” and a prose poem published on riverbabble titled “Dusk.”
The venue was nice–a stage next to a bar, with couches and tables set up in front. I had a glass of wine before I read, which helped with the stage fright. It was also a comfort to have both my sons there, and my husband. After I read I asked them if I sucked, and they assured me I didn’t. My youngest, who’s in a band and has performed many times in public, said, “we all (the band members) used to get depressed for a few days after a performance, wishing we had done better, but we finally realized that you have to just enjoy the moment, and be grateful for the chance to be up there performing.” He’s an old soul, that boy.
My oldest son told me my best poems are the ones with surreal imagery. He didn’t like the short story as much. I think I agree with him. I read a new piece that’s sort of a hybrid called “Locker Room Privacy,” written in third-person limited point of view from the perspective of an inanimate object. I don’t think it quite worked, and I’m not sure what to do with it, besides let it sit on my computer to collect cyber dust.
It was also very nice to see some of the other writers from the poetry workshop. One of them brought her adorable one-year-old daughter, who toddled across the room like a character from a video game, full throttle. She approached the stage just as I was about to read my Frida Khalo poem, and for some weird reason my brain went into Spanish, and I said something to her like “Hola, chiquita….” It must have been nerves. Her mother ran up to the stage and scooped her baby up.
One of the reasons I wanted to go to GSU was to be a part of a writing community. I’m very grateful to poet Jim May for inviting me to read, especially because I’m so new. Jim told the audience, “when we read in a workshop we come with the idea that our work is broken and needs to be fixed. We started these readings as a chance to just enjoy the words.”