Daryl Farmer is a photographer, husband, professor, program director, cyclist, and most notably to us, a writer. He has two books out, Where We Land: Stories (2016) and Bicycling Beyond the Divide: Two Journeys into the West (2008). He holds a BA in Physical Education from Adams State College and an MA and PhD in Creative Writing from University of Nebraska- Lincoln. Though he lives in Alaska now, working as an assistant professor and director of the Creative Writing program, he is from Colorado Springs. After being introduced by Megan Clark, he took the stage and informed us how thrilled he was to be back on his home turf. We were happy to have him.
Daryl Farmer began his reading with a short story titled “Anniversary” featuring an old man reflecting on his life on what would have been his 60th wedding anniversary had his wife, Edith, not died a short time ago. The story took place over a single night but spanned 60+ years as the man picked through his life, trying to discover the point which things went wrong, trying to understand why he had been left so alone in the world.
Though lengthy, Farmer seemed to read the story in a single breath, pushing the words out as though they must be told at that very moment. The old man recalled his wife, his favorite person in the world, and his young daughter Abigail who died in a fire when she was still a toddler. His grief was palpable, described in fiery imagery and astonishing accuracy– a startling reminder of what may await any one of us at the end of the road. In fact, the story elicited emotions I had never felt before. As a 19 year old college student, I am often guilty of believing that death is too far away to touch, but for those 15 or so minutes, I felt it sitting next to me. We became friends.
At the end of the first story, Farmer revealed that it was written in a single, colossal sentence. He said that he originally wrote it in a “normal, multi-sentenced story” but found that taking out all punctuation was the last piece that it needed to stand on its own. It seemed perfect to me, too.
Farmer read one more story, a new one, set in Fairbanks, Alaska. This one focused on a restless ex-professor in his mid-thirties in love with a women (Zoe) who may or may not have left him– neither he nor the audience knows. The man, Breck, is described as lonely, restless, and broken, “he feels both hungry and full.”
The plot is small but significant. After Zoe has left to go down south for a while (no one knows for how long), Breck finds a woman rolling around in the snow in his front yard one afternoon and discovers that it is the young mother who lives down the road. She invites him over to meet her child, Abigail, and he winds up staying and playing music with her and her husband for several hours. In that time, Breck reflects on Zoe and how he drove her away. Farmer describes her in glowing, glorious detail. In a few paragraphs, Zoe becomes not a real woman, but a powerful symbol of love. He also worked some environmental awareness in there, informing the audience of the pollution epidemic in Alaska, an issue I was previously unaware of.
Farmer ended the night with a Q&A, showcasing his sharp sense of humor and insight on writing. He explained that he also studies photography, which accounts for the stunning imagery found in his stories. He also told us that he often writes very early in the morning because his “inner critic doesn’t wake up until seven.”
Daryl Farmer was a delight and I would personally welcome him back to CSU anytime. Read more about him on his website.
Join us for the next reading in the series: