~From English Department Communications Intern Ashley Alfirevic
I had often been warned about this, that agreeing to too much, even willingly and excitedly, might have its pitfalls. “Of course I can handle covering two events in one night. It won’t be a problem. The readings are always fun, anyways,” I thought.
That is, until I walked past the UCA’s Art Gallery to find it empty. I followed the sound of voices through the halls until I accidently startled some (presumably) theater majors. “The Hatton Gallery’s not in here, is it?” I asked.
They looked at me sympathetically. “That’s on the other side of campus.”
So, after admitting my defeat and driving to the Visual Arts building, I guiltily opened the door during the middle of Camille Dungy’s opening for Luke Dani Blue & Stephanie Lenox. “I went to the wrong building,” I whispered to the strangers sitting next to me.
A Colorado Review-er introduced Blue, commenting on the particular pleasure that came from accepting the story that had so captured her attention, and also from the knowledge that Blue’s cattle dog could do backflips.
“I lied about my dog,” Blue admitted when stepping up to the front. “It’s more of an uncoordinated half-spin than a backflip.” Prize winning dog or not, Blue certainly has her fair share of things to be proud of, including a Nelligan Prize for her story “Bad Things That Happen to Girls.”
An entrancing combination of fairytale and coming-of-age narratives, immigrant mother Birdie fills a role neither Godmother nor Stepmother, as her best attempts to rescue her child seem to the girl an imprisonment. Birdie wants to save her daughter Trish from the burdens of female adolescence on her thirteenth birthday. She sells their most prized possessions and quits her job to surprise Trish with an RV, so that they can travel the country together along a silver ribbon of road where “just beyond today, dawns lined up.” The secret gives her jitters, but the ultimate reveal falls flat in a world without magic, one where the Rapunzel wants to cut her hair and doesn’t want to leave the tower.
After Birdie’s failed fantasy in “Bad Things,” with its beautiful but strained relationship between mother and daughter, Stephanie Lenox’s poetry came with lighthearted laughter. Her book The Business both “challenges and celebrates societal performativity of the day job and the office routine.”
Lenox held up the nametag that inspired it all, a symbol of her working office life where a co-worker whispered to her both a plea and a promise of hilarity: “You’re a writer, right? Write about this.” Simultaneously analytical, scathing, and laugh-out-loud funny, The Business provides commentary on the work of work, discussing the potentially meticulous afterlife of secretaries in heaven or the unwarranted nostalgia for unused fax machines. The audience contributed their own personal disdain and small affections for office life by helping to chant Lenox’s chorus for one of her poems, “Employees Must Wash Hands,” prompted for the proper recitation with a gold sign bearing the instruction. Finally, the evening ended on the raucous laughter and identification of the “Take This Job and Shove It” Ode.
Though the night consisted of a string of admitted defeats – of losing touch with a teenage daughter, of losing sanity in the rat race, and of losing the belief that you can do it all – each story preserved and held their own happy endings: for “Bad Things That Happen to Girls,” an endearing belief in fairytales and an unshakeable love between mother and child; for The Business, the ability to maintain a sense of humor and unbridled amusement amongst the day to day; for me, a pleasant reminder that I am always absorbed and enlightened by an author’s work, even if I’m a little late in hearing it.
The Creative Writing Reading Series at CSU is organized by English Department faculty and the Organization of Graduate Student Writers (OGSW); Creative Writing faculty serve on a rotating basis as director of the series and faculty advisor to OGSW. The series has a small annual budget and relies on the support of the Associated Students of Colorado State University (ASCSU), the College of Liberal Arts dean’s office, donors, local businesses, and CSU’s English Department. Its spring 2016 events are made possible with support from CSU’s Lilla B. Morgan Memorial Endowment, a premier funder of the arts at CSU. Please help grow this fund with a gift at: http://president.colostate.edu/lillabmorgan/index.aspx. All events are free and open to the public.
Next reading: MFA Thesis Reading (Nonfiction), Thursday March 24. 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm in the Clara Hatton Gallery, Visual Arts Building.