After a welcome delivered by AUP Creative Writing professor Jeffrey Greene, the evening kicked off with introductions to each of the five writers by Joshua Kruchten. (update – 12 November – we have posted the audio from the reading here).
Chloe Rash was the first to read, from her new poems, both narrative and lyrical. Chloe’s poems were both intensely personal and precisely located, often in districts of Paris and usually in the small hours of the night. She responded to the pull of the city while revealing the degree to which the city refuses to yield its secrets. Her verse has an almost Byronic surge to it, linked to its insistent search for rhyme and its spirit of adventure.
The three stories read by Jackson Connor provided a start contrast: where Chloe’s work was expansive, Connor’s stories were highly disciplined exercises in compression and reduction – and this despite the fact that their idiom was ostensibly relaxed and their register always close to slang or demotic. Each of the stories (like those of, say, Grace Paley) extracted poignancy from the banal and pathos from the quotidian.
Aleany Mealy presented her new story as a recent experiment, but to its audience it sounded like an accomplished adventure in meta-fiction, whereby a narrative finds its impetus in the very difficulty of writing, in the dialogues that a writer has both inside and outside her head when trying to move on from any sort of writer’s block.
The poems read by Sousan Hammad were translated (from Arabic) rather than written by her, though what will have struck the audience is how fine the line is between these two positions, writer/translator. The poems, from Egypt and from Palestine, showed an intense preoccupation with place and space, and a nostalgia for cities that may only be of the mind.
The evening finished with the reading of a single long short story by Rachel Nielsen, in which the author demonstrated how by indirection – the plot was minimal, revealing the difficulty of movement, the stuckness of the characters – a great deal can be said about loss and grief. The story’s final sentence left the audience, like the characters whose lives had briefly been illuminated, wondering where exactly to look for relief.