Monthly Archives: October 2015

Karen Russell Presents Poised Reading

Posted by Nicole Sheldon, Fiction Reader for Issue 4.1

After a warm welcome from Professor Lytton Smith, visiting author Karen Russell took the stage in the MacVittie College Union Ballroom on Wednesday, October 14. Russell’s connection with the audience was instantaneous. From the moment she began reading her short story “Reeling for the Empire” from Vampires in the Lemon Grove, she had her audience’s rapt attention.  The story examines young Japanese women forced to grow silk inside of their bodies, and then reel the silk for kimonos. Fantastic and magical, this story celebrates female empowerment as the young women eventually stand up for the rights to their own bodies.

vampires-in-lemon-grove-jpgDuring the Q&A following her reading, Russell explained that setting is often an inspiration for her stories; she molds characters and a plot that she imagines would coincide with that particular setting. I found this surprising, yet inspiring. It reminded my of the literary journal The Common, which focuses on place and which we’ve been studying this semester in the Editing and Production Workshop.

Indeed, setting is a clear focus in “Reeling for the Empire,” as the story itself takes place in Japan, and largely in the small factory room in which the Japanese silk girls are entrapped. They have no way to escape the tiny living space or their life of producing silk. Russell captures the claustrophobic nature of the girls lives through her detailed description of the setting.

Near the end of the Q&A, Russell commented on the importance of endurance in writing and how revision is a strenuous, but vital aspect of writing. “Committing to radically revising something, that’s a big undertaking,” she admitted. She was honest, yet encouraging about the struggles of revision, and advised young writers to ask themselves during the revision process “Is this worth my time?” and “Am I interested?” Ultimately, this is what helps an author decide whether or not their piece is worthy of their endurance.

Karen Russell had an endearing and relatable sense of humor; she was eloquent and down-to-earth, and surprisingly humble given that she is an acclaimed author and winner of numerous awards, such as the MacArthur Fellowship and the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts. Russell didn’t pretend to be all knowing; she remained modest throughout the event, and was an inspiration to all in attendance.

Comments Off on Karen Russell Presents Poised Reading

Filed under Blog

Lifting the Fog: The Road to Conquering Roadblocks When Writing

Posted by Morgan Staub, Fiction Reader for Issue 4.1

Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

Sip of coffee, Twitter. Sip of coffee, Facebook. Sip of coffee, back to the blank document in front of you.

The blinking cursor is laughing at you.

Whats the matter, buddy? Cant bring yourself to make a statement?

It happens to us all. Nearly every time I sit down to write, writers block creeps up on me at least once. My head, which was just twisting with sentences and characters, excited to get my ideas down on paper, goes completely blank. Eventually it lifts, like a dense fog rolling through, and Im finally able to get started on my story.

An important thing to remember when afflicted with writers block or other writing detours is that, luckily, theyre not a disease without a cure. Depending on your goal, Ive found there are different paths I can take that will help lift the fog and get my creative train rolling. Continue reading

Comments Off on Lifting the Fog: The Road to Conquering Roadblocks When Writing

Filed under Blog

Our Small Universe Expands: Literature & Ice Cream at the Rochester Fringe Festival

Posted by Evan Goldstein, former contributor and Poetry Editor for Issue 4.1

The Rochester Fringe Festival is an annual ten-day multi-disciplinary arts festival, with performances and visual installments spread throughout Rochester, featuring “fringe” arts outside of the mainstream. Fringe festivals like that in Rochester and many others around the world give audiences to many isolated and otherwise cut off artists. Like a large, dispersed literary journal, fringe festivals provide a community for artists and audiences to come together and experience arts on the fringe of the mainstream community. Today was Geneseo’s day at the Lyric theatre, an old church recently converted into an opera house for performances and readings. Geneseo’s day at the Lyric theatre was the first ever reading that Geneseo students have given as part of the Fringe festival, and the first strong showing of Geneseo talent as a whole at Rochester Fringe. We had performances ranging from a capella to improv, to film poems and, here at the “Stories a la Mode” event, a fiction reading complete with ice cream.

The usher was French, and I know that because I heard the soft throaty nasal vowel—ahhsss—and one hard choked consonant—krèm—as he, quietly insistent, led me to the far chamber door and held it open, gesturing to a bar in the


Maya Bergamasco reads at the Lyric theatre. Pictured in the background: ice cream bar.

back of the small hall. Maybe he was French-Canadian. I, playing reporter (press pass and all), got my camera out and crouched in front of the bar, watching the audience, cups of ice cream and little spoons in their hands, watch the writer read her story. A glance up at the barman’s shirt: Hedonist Ice Cream. Yes, I thought: the perfect blog post story. The hands at the tables holding the little cups of ice cream, I’ll take their photographs and interview them about free ice cream, our community hub, come up with a clever “Gandy Dancer as Ice Cream of SUNY System” blog post title, make it home in time for dinner, maybe a night cap—ice cream for dessert, yes. Good plan, delicious plan. The audience leaned toward the stage at the front of the room. Continue reading

Comments Off on Our Small Universe Expands: Literature & Ice Cream at the Rochester Fringe Festival

Filed under Blog

John Gallaher at the Geneseo Literary Forum

Posted by Chloe Forsell, former contributor and Poetry Reader for Issue 4.1

As he walks nervously up to the podium, the crowd of eager listeners packed tightly together in the Walter Harding Lounge on the SUNY Geneseo campus, silence themselves in what seems to be an unspoken but simultaneously universal knowledge of the immense vulnerability one must feel as he stands to share his art with a group of people—worse even, a group of people who care about his art. His glasses on, his hands trembling so slightly it couldn’t have been noticeable past the third row, visiting poet John Gallaher pulls a digital stopwatch out of his pocket, makes a joke about timing himself (which turns out to be very serious), and eases the tension of his own nervousness by accepting his vulnerability. He makes a self-deprecating joke, which the audience will soon find is a theme of the night’s reading.

Within the first sixty seconds of Gallaher’s reading, he communicated both a sense of discomfort and ease. I think anyone who attended Gallaher’s Monday evening reading of poetry from his book-length essay-poem In a Landscape (BOA Editions Ltd., 2014), would agree that this tension, this complexity of not knowing how to feel, of uncertainty in life, is a driving force in Gallaher’s poetry, as well as in the way he relates to those around him.

in a landscapeAt once eloquent and colloquial, Gallaher led the room through a collection of several of his “landscapes,” or numbered sections of an essay-poem comprised of seventy-one smaller poems written in about forty days. In one breath, Gallaher projected beautiful lines of poetry; in the next he shocked us with the hard drop of “fuck” or “shit,” his own speech spilling through the written lines, until his divergences began to blend with the poetry, the published lines began to mesh with the deviations from the page, and all of the words became Gallaher—a pure and whole representation of the human being who stood before us. A beautiful moment where this indistinguishable quality seemed to shine was a moment in which Gallaher reflected on a plane crash that killed three of its five passengers. Fluidly, so smoothly it was almost alarming, Gallaher brought this into the room, pointing to the row of five in the front, temporarily turning them into the passengers, the room itself into the plane, ourselves into horrified observers, and reminding us of the fragility and randomness of life, reminding us that “that’s just the way it fucking happens.”

This connection to his audience is what allows Gallaher’s poetics to resonate on a highly personal level. He often stopped in the middle of reading a poem or sharing an anecdote to ask us, “Do you know what I mean? Have you experienced this?” Gallaher’s search for connection, his desire to relate, and his judicious use of humor are comforting, humanizing. I think this is reflected not only in his own poetry, but perhaps this is the goal of, dare I say it, all poetry?

Comments Off on John Gallaher at the Geneseo Literary Forum

Filed under Blog