An awesome day of Witching Hour festivals began to wind down to an awesome finish tonight at the Englert. At 8:00 p.m., it brought a crowd of Witching Hour-ers back for the Writers of Color Reading Event.
The Englert’s dark stage, dimly lit by trippy cerulean blue lights, featured a lineup of brilliant young writers. Each owning the stage in their turn and in their own way, they read a selection from their creative work, ranging from poetry to novels to nonfiction.
What was particularly amazing right off the bat about the performers (especially for me) was where they were at in their lives this night. For instance, the first performer, Aimee Frederickson, is a fourth-year undergrad at the UI, a writer featured in Earthwords.
I would never dream of the possibility of even stepping foot on the Englert stage, or any sizable stage for that matter, reading my own creative work at this point in my life. And yet there I watched a fellow classmate rocking the stage with electric poetry and a different take on the first dog in space.
This event was also impressive in the number of readers it featured. The plurality of performers reminded me more of an open mic than a reading, which added a raw and rich quality to the event.
It also left me gasping for time to digest everything that I had seen by the end of the event (and which I still haven’t quite done). Each performer brought currents of ideas, thoughts, languages, and experiences that swirled in thought vortexes towards the audience.
There was also the element of seeing the future in the making. MFA candidate Bruna Dantas Lobatos, for example, read from her novel-in-progress. It was a scene describing a phone call between a daughter and her mother, and the distortion of distance, intimacy, and visualization.
This made the second time I have been able to listen to/ be exposed to a novel in progress, and it is an experience that I absolutely love. Novels bear a greater image of a “finished product,” and being able to be exposed to it when it is still in process gives the idea of a novel and writing a greater sense of tactility that I really value.
The night also featured incredibly magnetic performances. Leon Pan, an MFA student
at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, read one poem. It was short. How short, I have no idea.
His poem and his performance held you in an uncertain limbo, tasting the words and wanting to unravel the compactness to see the depth beneath, and then stopping so that you suddenly fell from the suspension you were held in. I hope I am able to meet this poem again somewhere because I didn’t have enough of it.
This reading opened a brief, whirling portal into writing in its fibrous, tactile, and pliant form. It’s an opportunity you can only really get in an environment that brings art to you in the raw–an environment called Iowa City.