Carson McCullers, A Local Centennial Celebration

The afternoon of Sunday, February 19 was unusually balmy, offering a warm kickoff to the centennial celebration of local writer Carson McCullers. River River editors and members enjoyed a literary and musical performance based on the author’s work at Nyack Library, then a sunlit stroll to the historic Carson McCullers house, a white Victorian a short distance down South Broadway, for a festive reception.

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Nyack Library’s Carnegie Room provided a rich setting for actor Patrick Donovan’s dramatic monologue of “A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.“, written by McCullers at age 19. Liliya Ugay followed with a haunting performance of her original piano composition inspired by the story, accompanied by Paul Neubauer on viola.

Carson McCullers, an American novelist, poet and playwright, lived in Nyack, New York from 1945 until her death in 1967. Her first novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, published when she was only 23 years old, received immediate acclaim, and McCullers continued a successful writing career, in spite of her serious ill health.

McCullers’ 100th birthday events have been organized by The Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians in Columbus, Georgia, which preserves the legacy of this important writer by organizing events and programs in her childhood home, close to Columbus State University. The McCullers Centennial celebration in Georgia included music, film screenings, and talks. We’re so pleased to be a part of the parallel upcoming events in Nyack, her second home. Nyack Library will host a community reading on Thursday, March 23, 7:00 p.m., and a film screening with Rivertown Films at the Nyack Center on Saturday, March 25, 8:00 p.m., which will be followed by a Q&A with filmmakers Kristi Zea and Karen Allen.

Right in the middle of these centennial events, River River will co-host an open mic and reading with local poet James Hoch on Friday, March 24, at 7 p.m. at the Carson McCullers House in Nyack. Arrive at 7 p.m. to sign up for the open mic! Writers are invited to present readings of 5 minutes or less.

Inspired by McCullers’ work and life, a few River River members have contributed creative pieces to this blog post in her honor. More to come, I’m certain!


Estate

by Celeste Rose Wood

On a list of items I love or have loved I would place
the green plastic glass from my grandmother’s kitchen,
color like a matte beer bottle. Plainest, least favorite
among the bright colors of the set: ruby, amethyst,
citrine. Yet this is the color, dull like an army knapsack,
that lodged in my life accidentally when once I brought
a drink in my car and forgot the dingy glass. The rest of
the set must have sold at the estate sale or landed
with a clatter finally somewhere on a pile of garbage.

When I drink from it, I think of the glass my grandmother
could not forget, one of the set accidentally thrown
away or broken or misplaced by a guest but certainly gone,
gone since before I was born and still periodically lamented
right up to the end of her life. My grandmother loved
many things, kept them carefully wrapped in tissue
paper and bubble wrap, kept them meticulously
cherished. What I love I keep if my disorganization fails
to misplace it. Sometimes my disorganization unintentionally
gifts me something new to love.

~

Reflections on Carson McCullers

by Steven Green

There is no final period to “goodbye.” It’s more of a semicolon.
It sneaks back upon you when least expected.

Merciless memory! Sadistic scenery!
The heart-rending wound of a simple tune, or casual turn of phrase!

At the same time, forgetting and searching, secretly craving renewal of a lost sensation, a buried delight; we return to the job, the family, the school, the neighborhood, striving to be “normal” with no true notion of what that might be.

The flame is squelched but the ambers still burn. Carson McCullers knew this burn most of her life.

We seek distractions from the reality of being alone.

It’s not really a concealed sadness; it’s more like an animal, forever stalking, ready to pounce whenever the fortifications crumble.

From the pain comes poetry and prose. Those realities are easier to control.

~

Village Villanelle

by A. Anupama

The belly of a cloud is rain,
which river sips, which
swallows mountain again.

Passing the daylight to you who refrain
and remain prone, I ask what is it
swallows your mountain strength again.

You, the very moon’s shadow, cannot wane
yet cannot hide from earth’s drips.
The belly of a cloud is rain.

While birds announce pleasure, I beg you, deign
answer. What you know and un-know dips,
swallows your steep mountain again.

You know to write what doubts and what pain
you carry—you lean impish children on my hip.
The belly of a cloud is rain;
quenches sorrow’s mountain again.

streaky lights

Find Flow with River River this December

While ice will soon form on the Hudson, River River brings a swirl of literary events to Cuppa Pulp Writers’ Space at CILK119 in December. Cuppa Pulp, a major sponsor of River River along with Seranam Literary Arts, offers a physical space to anchor the budding nonprofit. We hope you will enjoy the wellspring of literary events made possible by this partnership this month and for many months to come!

We’ll begin on December 3 with Saturday Morning write!, a 3-week series of free salons designed to encourage generation of new work. Facilitators Donna Miele or Anu Amaran will offer a prompt in a supportive group atmosphere. Writers take this wherever their creativity leads them, and we end by sharing our work fresh off the page. The write! salons are River River’s signature offering, and have sailed through a variety of wonderful venues, including Art Cafe, Johnnycakes, and Didier Dumas of Nyack. We are honored and excited to continue hosting salons at Cuppa Pulp. 

December 17 brings a triple-splash that includes write!, then a Drop-in Poetry Revision Workshop with Anu Amaran, and right in the middle of it all, the much-loved holiday season Lodestar Reading, featuring local author Mary Beth Keane, who will read from her novel, Fever. Fever was named one of the best books of 2013 by the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR Books, and Library Journal.

Come in with the estuary tides!

Reading in Translation: One Student’s Five Cents

Recently, River River’s teen intern Mia Schiffer had the opportunity to discuss some fine points on reading in translation with Claudia Shaldervan, a classmate and native Russian speaker. The text was Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Both students are writers, poets, and artists. While certain details of Claudia’s experience will be familiar to those who have shared it, the overall discussion offers some wonderfully deep thought on the transformative effect translation can have on literature, as well as a poignantly expressed opinion on how reading one’s national literature from afar creates powerful, conflicting feelings of connectedness and disconnectedness. 

Q:   Do you think that a book or poem can truly be translated into another language and keep its integrity?

A: Literature of any language holds a humor and essence unique to its culture. Of the Russian works I compare with their English translations, poetry especially gets lost in translation.