The 17th Annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival will be held March 31-April 2, 2022 in Ada, Oklahoma. To watch videos from the 2021 Festival go to youtube.com/tigermedia.
Yesterday morning, I went to the very first session of the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival and listened to readings from Brady Peterson, Rebecca Hatcher Travis, and Michael Dooley. I appreciated Peterson’s poetry as one could not always pick out exactly the particular meaning of each work, but one could still be possessed by a notion that there was meaning and that it was something thoughtful and beautiful. Such is the wonder of the written word -- it doesn't always need to be completely understood to be appreciated, much like most forms of art. Of course, not every work read from Peterson fit that mold when considering a poem he read regarding his love for tequila.
Friday afternoon I attended the 16th viewing, which featured the poets Katherine Hoerth, Chera Hammons and J.C "Catfish" Mahan. There were several things about the different works of these poets that I found quiet interesting and note worthy. Mahan for example features many works that seemed deeply cynical and featured a strong dislike or mistrust of society. However, they were each delivered with such personality and energy that they were received with great humor. I found it quiet ironic that the underlying tones of these works at least appeared to be quiet cynical but still brought such joy to the crowd. That is a credit to Mahan, that he was able to bring things that were so raw and dark and deliver them in such a way that could lift the mood of the listeners.
Friday morning I listened to Joey Brown, I found a lot of what she said relatable to my own writing process. Brown mentioned that "there is no better way to kill a draft or idea for a book than to talk about it." She also talked about how she doesn't like to talk about her own writing, and that sometimes she feels insecure in her organizational skills, writing process, and even her ideas. I related to that because I struggle with the same things."Here's a list of things I won't judge you for: Showing me pictures of your pet, putting your pajamas on as soon as you get home, even if it's noon, crying about someone you love who is no longer with us, and telling me about your writing, because I know you have to."
Friday afternoon I attended the 16th session in which I heard Chera Hammons read. Her language is incredible and she is one of the few poets that when I heard her, I could imagine I was where she was with my eyes open. I didn’t have to focus on the words, close my eyes and click my heels three times. I resonated with all of the poems she read and enjoyed her personality and observations.
I attended the 11:00 and 2:00 sessions on April 6th. The first reader we saw, Elizabeth Raby, was phenomenal. I could see why she is an Oklahoma poet, although it’s hard to articulate why. It’s not that she writes about cowboys and tumbleweeds, the way people from the north might expect (not that there’s anything wrong with cowboys and tumbleweeds). I was struck by how relatable her poems were. I enjoyed Battery Street for its mix of domesticity and grittiness. To hear it read aloud gave it much more oomph. It paired well with “This Story I Am Telling.”
Michael Dooley's "Mary, Mother of ..." (from the first session) was very sad but it also did an amazing job of hitting my emotions which drew me into the story. The characters were very intriguing, especially the mother because she was such a tough person even though she had a lot of things eating away at her on the inside.
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These are not MY Comments (Ken Hada); I'm simply passing along some student responses. So, Alan (and the others), I love you, but .... :)"My favorite poet, hands-down, was Alan Berecka. I was in love with his poem “Blind Faith.” It started with the line “Brussels got blown up today.” My first thought was that it was going to be a poem in remembrance of what happened in Brussels. And in a way it was, but it was much more than that. This poem deals with the desperation so many of us face in an event like this—we want to do our part but also know that nothing we do will be enough. In this poem, the speaker turns to writing, but knows that nothing he writes will be good enough, and no matter what he does he can’t stop the world from going on—realizes that of course he (or anyone) “could not keep Brussels from blowing up today.” I thought this poem captured the feelings of many writers, myself included, who want their work to matter in the greater scheme of things, who feel compelled to help and try the only way they know how, who know that no matter what nothing they can do can stop the bad things from happening. continue a story even when they don’t know what’s coming next."
from a student response: "Elizabeth Raby, blew me out of the water. I could see why she was chosen to represent Oklahoma poetry, although it’s hard to articulate why. I think people from the northern states might expect Oklahomans to write about cowboys and tumbleweeds (not that there’s anything wrong with cowboys and tumbleweeds), but that’s not what Raby does. I was struck by how relatable her poems were. I enjoyed Battery Street for its domestic grittiness. Hearing it read aloud gave it much more oomph. It paired well with “This Story I Am Telling.”
another student response: "Paul Bowers, meanwhile has a great reading voice—that’s always something I appreciate in a writer, and yet it’s always a pleasant surprise. That’s probably because I find myself far less articulate verbally than in writing. Someone who can be eloquent on and off the page has a real gift. “The Kiln” was my favorite. The juxtaposition of nostalgic childhood imagery—like the imperfect wooden with the sudden reference to the Syrian conflict worked like a punch to the gut. Political poems are my favorite "
a student referring to George McCormick: "I had a deep epiphaney when I heard George MacCormic read. Well, actually two. I never woulda believed I could get into a story that was read. He was really good, speaking and writing. Also, he talked about seeing a poor white woman abused and he didn't do nothing about it. Made him feel bad. This was when he was a kid. He said some stuff I won't pretend to understand about social lines and couldn't cross them I guess cuz hew wasn't poor and she was. But it made me think he didn't do nothing to help because he couldn't do nothing. The woman crawled under a dumpster she didn't go into the store. So she didn't want help and no kid was gonna help her unless he had money she coulda used. The epiphaney part was in my thinking that we do this all the time. We like to think we could stop the world's problems. We drop a bomb and think we've done something. But the misery goes on and what hurts us most is we can't do a damn thing about it."
from a student: "Elizabeth Raby’s work is sweet and gentle, the thoughts of an older woman as she looks upon the world through the eyes of experience. Her poem “Multiflora” is especially beautiful. She talks about her mother, whose husband picked her a multiflora rose corsage when Raby was very young. Years later, Raby sees multiflora roses and instantly recalls her mother. She describes her mother in heart-touching language, as the mother who “filled her life, but who simply was.” Her description of her mother as the most beautiful woman who ever lived reverberates in the hearts of her listeners."
from a student: "The second writer that stood out was Dorothy Alexander, who seemed to be loved by everyone in the room before she even spoke. In her introductions she said a phrase which I think is very true for any artists, "I don't steal from other artists, but I am very impressionable." Her "bastardized form of poetry" as she called it was a work of prose with a poem following it, which I thought was very interesting. She writes of travle, life, childhood and other such things a woman experiences in her lifetime. My favorite work that she read was called "Barnyard Misogyny"."
from a student: "My hands down favorite was Leif! I was honored to give him the stone pottery plaque after his readings. That man can tell a story. He creates these loveable, and I'm sure not-so-loveable, characters who just seem to come to life right before your eyes, and ears. My favorite passage was the one about the man who made boats, and the rambunctious young boy who demanded he come to breakfast. Although westerns aren't typically what I'd read, I couldn't help but want more, so I bought it. Prose is my favorite form of storytelling, so he was my obvious choice."
it's not a competition, and sometimes only certain, verbal students see certain writers, but the beauty is that all of the authors are speaking to students in ways that always surprise us, ways that go beyond the classroom. Thank YOU, all of you!!!!! Ken Hada
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