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.

Borrowed Pages – Inauguration Day

Whirring blades of helicopter on the flat-screen darkened the diner counter, while I pulled my gloves off. I’d come straight from the protest rally on Main Street in Nyack, New York, where my inauguration-day mood had shifted from black to a mere dark gray. But, staring up at the event about to tumble into history, I recoiled, feeling grateful that the usual spot for our writing group is all the way in the back, next to the chalkboards announcing smoothie flavors and Nespresso options.

Writers arrived with muted greetings, spread themselves out at the long table. Some glanced over at me, probably wondering what might prompt creative writing in this dim light.

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!

The Invitation by Jean Marie Donnelly

Jean Marie Donnelly, also a member of Rockland County’s Writing Beyond the Basics, leads River River salons at Cuppa Pulp Writers’ Space. She is at work on a novel set in a dystopian world in which creativity has been banned. The following story, true to Jean Marie’s taste for the weird and fantastical, is based on a prompt called “The Invitation.” We always love a good twist!

~

I stare at the wedding invitation on my kitchen table.  There’s been some mistake.  The invitation looks exactly like the one my fiancée, Declan, and I picked out. I touch it to be sure; rough where the roses belong and pearl smooth around the edges. I run my finger across the raised lettering I had insisted upon.  D-E-C-L-A-N S-A-V-O-Y.  The letters are so neatly spaced out and his name feels so good under my fingers.  M-E-G-A-N L-A-N-G-S-T-O-N.  My finger traces out the rise, fall, crevice, and groove of each letter.  Surely there is some mistake.  Declan and I met during our junior year of college. We’ve been a genuinely loving couple for the last six years.  Why is Megan’s name there? This mystery is not helping the piercing headache I can’t seem to cure.

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.

A Character Template: You Won’t Know If You Don’t Ask

By Julie M. Goldberg

The fiction project I’m working on features a large cast of characters gathered in a supermarket one autumn evening. I won’t elaborate on what is happening to them there, but suffice to say that not one is having a pleasant shopping experience.

When writing my first novel, I felt that the characters existed in the universe somewhere, and my role was to get well enough acquainted with them that they would trust me and tell me their story. They did, but it took a long time.

The characters in the current story have suggested their collective existence and experiences to me, but require much more effort to sculpt as individuals. I wanted each to have a separate soul, as evidenced through her language, her longings, and her choices.

Poetry as a Ward Against Conspiracy Theory by Celeste Rose Wood

What makes a conspiracy theorist and what makes a poet? Could it be the same psychological phenomenon manifesting differently in different minds, in different environments? I suspect that dissociation at a subclinical level, which has been implicated in suggestibility or openness to hypnosis, as well as in credulous belief of paranormal phenomena, also contributes to the creative processes of poetry and other art. Most of us, poet, conspiracy theorist or neither, have likely occasionally experienced mild feelings of unreality during which the world seems dreamlike or hazy: a manifestation of dissociation at subclinical levels.

Outward Bound

Night Running, Down Moonbeams

Thoughts on intersections between poetry and photography, jotted down while sailing down the edge of Megapolis: a photoblog by River River Photography Editor David e Bell.

Departure

I was a photographer first, and looking back poetry has always been there filling in the gaps. Perhaps photography has been providing the structure upon which I have created a series of poetic universes.

In my world, photography is reactive, reality bounded, while poetry is reflective, unchained to any particularly reality. The photographer is limited by the physics of light, the limits of his software, and a moment frozen in time. Poetry is timeless, bound only by the texture of language and the poet’s ability to work that texture, to weave images that exist only in the mind.

Editor’s Eye

At the risk of this blog post sounding something like a Dierks Bentley song, I can easily say what I was feeling in this set of poems featured in the fall issue of River River… but what was I thinking? Let me see if I can shoot some holes in the tailgate called editorial process.

My favorite aspect of this group of poems is the way it demands its freedom to demand, in a resonant voice of plaintive enjoyment. Un-untwistable metaphors entertain and delight me more than technique. The singularity of the Mobius strip, the endlessness of a mandala knot, the beginning and ending somehow different because of a slide down the curly slide all begin to describe the effect of these permanently kinked metaphor-strings.

Borrowed Pages: A Taste of the Macabre

We know we can always look forward to a taste of the macabre from John, a confirmed horror fan and writer who has been published in California Quarterly, Forge, and Diverse Voices Quarterly. John attends River River’s write! in Nyack, a weekly group that shares a writing prompt and a round of readings, in both poetry and prose. We bring you this unedited excerpt dripping fresh gore…

Writer’s Block

by John Morrison

Henry was frustrated. He wanted to write something down, anything. So he wrote about his frustrating inability to put words to paper. It didn’t help. He threw his pen down on the table, stood up, and grabbed the folding chair he had been sitting on. His knuckles turned white as he lifted the chair and heaved it through the window. The glass erupted outward and rained down on the sidewalk.