Fear, Hope, and Flight

Ontario Museum of History and Art

Ontario Museum of History and Art

Shortly after two this afternoon, her feet planted firmly on the floor of the Ontario Museum of History and Art, Nikia Chaney did more than walk the talk, she took flight and brought a room full of writers with her.

Nikia Chaney

Nikia Chaney (photo by Cindy Rinne)

Chaney captivated the four tables full of workshop participants as she opened with the recitation of one of her own poems. In her rich alto voice, she pondered the removal of her wings. Far from fanciful, her words tapped into deep human fears and desires.

Waving off applause and finger snaps, saying we needed to move quickly with so many participants, Chaney quickly sought volunteers to read each of the three poems she had included on a handout: Ed Roberson’s “Here,” Langston Hughes’ “Dreams,” and Maya Angelou’s “Touched by an Angel.” She asked the participants to question: What do you fear? Why do you hope? What does it mean to fly?

Marsha Schuh

Marsha Schuh, workshop participant

Chaney gave ten minutes to write on each question. She encouraged the participants to write prose or poetry, whichever they would like. She had planned for the group to break for inspiration from the “Black Wings:American Dreams of Flight” exhibit on display at the museum through March 8th, but the number of participants prohibited it.

Workshop participants

Workshop participants

When thirty minutes had passed, the sharing began. Chaney encouraged initial praise and then constructive criticism. The group needed little prodding. Almost entirely women, they were highly affirming. Each participant had the opportunity to read.

Chaney saved here friend Ginger to close. With only five minutes remaining, Ginger dazzled the group with her spoken word performance.

Ginger

Ginger

In two hours, the group metaphorically took flight on more than twenty journeys from fear to hope and left with their own new creations.

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The Conviviality of Writers

Literary readings serve as potluck dinners for writers. Yes, the refreshment tables tantalize us and occasionally satiate, but the real feast is the words of fellow writers which nourish us, comfort us, and invigorate us.

What a pleasure to indulge yesterday on the citric words of fellow contributors to Orangelandia: The Literature of Inland Citrus at the Riverside Barnes and Noble. I so enjoyed hearing again many of this anthology’s works read by their creators and nibbling on a piece of the English shortbread made by Marion Mitchell-Wilson. Gayle Brandeis left the Inland Empire with such a legacy through this collection she edited.

If you’re shopping online for holiday presents at Barnes and Noble before November 26th, use Inlandia Institute‘s identification code (11484482) and a portion of your purchase will be given to support this non-profit arts group that offers writing workshops, readings, and so much more.

Today, I read for the first time at Fourth Sundays: Poetry at the Claremont Library. I think I counted nearly twenty poets who read to a full room. I was particularly touched by the post-reading conversations where poets shared the stories of the personal events that inspired their poems.

Serendipitously, the event was not only a great gathering of poets for an open mic, but also an annual holiday party complete with refreshments, a choice of a complementary book of poetry, and the opportunity to purchase more bargain-priced books in support of the Claremont Library, just finishing its hundredth year of service to the city. I took away Tony Hoagland’s Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty, Michael Chitwood’s Poor-Mouth Jubilee and four other great titles. I’m grateful for a feast of poems to enjoy over my Thanksgiving break.

PoetrIE’s Celebration of Women Writers

This gallery contains 10 photos.

This afternoon a crowd packed the Greater Good Coffee shop on the ground floor of the Citibank building in Redlands, Ca. Six women writers from the Inland Empire demonstrated the diversity of quality writing produced by women in the region.