Posted by: Viola | June 2, 2015

Q&A with Carolyn Forché and closing day at SummerWords 2015

Sunday was the final day of the 2015 SummerWords Creative Writing Festival. It feels the same each year, when Sunday rolls around. It feels like some deep loss is about to descend. Yet, I feel stronger, too, ready to take on that separation and forge ahead.

10:00 am — I attended my final workshop for the festival, a workshop by poet and travel writer Suzanne Roberts, who is the author of the book Almost Somewhere: 28 Days on the John Muir Trail. Her workshop was titled “Turning Your Trips into Tales” and I enjoyed it. She covered a lot of helpful information about writing our journeys into stories or travel accounts we can share. I love the idea that we do not have to go very far to be travel writers. We can write about our own local worlds. There is a lot to observe and document right at our own front doors or in our own backyards. She also did an exercise to show us the difference between “showing” and “telling” and I learned a lot from this, which I will apply in my poetry and essays. After her workshop, I got to chat with two staff members from the American River Current, and they asked me to speak briefly about my experience in the workshop today. I showed them a copy of the chapbook box set and my BIRD FROM AFRICA chapbook. I also showed my chapbook to Suzanne Roberts and introduced myself to her. She is a wonderful speaker and I will be hunting down her books and poetry collections so that I can be more familiar with her work.

11:30 am — The Q&A session with Carolyn Forché and Suzanne Roberts was so incredible. I cannot really describe it. I am so mad at myself for not bringing my recorder and recording every word that was uttered during this session. Carolyn answered each question with so much presence and passion. In many ways, I enjoyed this session much more than her reading primarily because I felt like she was speaking directly to me, to all of us. It felt so personal and so thorough. I did not want it to end, but it went by so fast. It seemed to flash by. Sad sigh. She said so many great things. I made notes but I could not keep up. I will do my best to transcribe my notes into a blog post and share these thoughts with others. After the session, I got my camera and asked for a photo. A line was forming for autographs and so I asked someone in line to take a photo of me with Suzanne and Carolyn. Suzanne introduced me to Carolyn by mentioning the chapbook box set and that the editors were Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani. I told Carolyn that I will be at the Poetry Foundation in July to read from my chapbook and that it will also be my first time meeting Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani. She said to say hello to Kwame and Chris and also to Lorna Dawes if she will be attending the event in Chicago. She said Lorna is her good friend. I said I would extend her greetings. It was in that moment, I believe, that I somewhat blanked out, since I can’t remember exactly what Carolyn said, and I wish I could recall every word. I blanked out because I realized I was in the presence of a great poet and we were speaking about other great poets and somehow me and my humble poems and my fiery passion for poetry have brought me to this place where I am connecting to other poets. This magical place. Where I want to lift off from the ground and become some winged thing soaring through the sky in wide circles. WOW!!!

12:45 pm — The “call to write” and closing remarks by Michael Spurgeon were great. He shared with us some of what goes into the planning and orchestration of a writers’ conference like SummerWords. It is no easy thing, it is quite a feat. I am blow away. I am convinced that the faculty and staff who pull it off are not mere human beings. They are extraordinary beings or perhaps they are beings with extraordinary passion. He spoke about the communal power of gathering with other writers to talk about our art and craft, how this gives us the sense of connection we need to go back to our studios and easels and notebooks and pads and laptops and the private work of generating art. We can work alone, in solitude, knowing that we have a family with us, a family of other passionate writers and artists. We are not alone. We are never alone. We are together and we are strong. We love the written word and we won’t stop loving it, we won’t stop doing what we do. We’ll keep creating more and more magical worlds with our writing and we will come together again, next year I hope, at SummerWords 2016, to celebrate and honor this magic-making literary work we have devoted so many of our moments to.


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