The Fork Socket reading event at the Wolverine Public House was a lively and enjoyable experience. Not only were there readings from three CSU students, but the hosts also provided comic entertainment to create a fun and inviting atmosphere. In contrast to the previous reading I attended for Mike Lala, an event I found somewhat pretentious, the Fork Socket event was far more engaging, though the quality of the works read were somewhat uneven at times.
Our hosts kicked off the evening with a comedic commentary of the funny hand gestures used by Radiohead’s lead singer, Thom Yorke. An edited version of that band’s “In Rainbows” basement sessions was shown on the projector while the two hosts, flanking the screen and channeling a combination of their inner David Attenborough, Al Michaels, and Monty Python, labeled and explained each funny hand gesture and odd gyration. I enjoyed this routine a lot and it helped create a mood for the evening which was relaxed and no doubt helped to ease any potential stagefright for the student readers.
The first reader was Michelle LaCross, not Michelle Obama as her introducer initially promised. However, with the assistance of impromptu interpretive dance from one of the audience members we were quickly relieved of this initial disappointment.
Michelle read a work of nonfiction, a memory piece about how her mother would take her and her siblings on long car rides to the beach where they built campfires and spent family time together. The story was very pleasant, however, it never moved past the surface of nostalgia to really dig deep into why her mother needed these trips. There was mention of a father who was not invited on these trips, and later mention of a step-father – implying a divorce and remarriage had taken place – yet at no time did I feel the work was mature enough to really explore anything beyond how Michelle enjoyed the time spent in the car and at the beach. Perhaps if she explored the emotions of her mother further, if we had a better sense of what the family was escaping we would be more likely to experience this memory with Michelle rather than just hear her tell about it. A key image in the story was that of her mother’s “poking stick” so perhaps Michelle can use this image to poke harder into the surface of this memory.
As Michelle was reading I realized I was sitting in a very bad spot to take notes while the readings took place: front row, just a few feet from each reader. Since these were students, and possibly not used to much public speaking, let alone reading very personal work, I felt it would be “bad form” to scribble notes as they read. In the future I won’t sit so close..
The next reader was Megan Clarke who was also introduced with lively interpretative dance as accompaniment. Megan’s work was from a novel she is currently working on and in this chapter our main character is running away from home and takes a bus from Pennsylvania to Boston and the radio station where she had been conceived. Most of the action takes place on the bus as she is seated next to a young man who is on his way towards a potential ivy league education, a stark contrast to our lesbian, poor, runaway, teenage narrator.
Megan has a gift for comedy and was an excellent reader – she commanded a strong stage presence, read clearly and didn’t drop a single joke. Yet the one aspect I struggled with was that her character was so similar to Holden Caulfield. So often I have seen in young people’s writings narrators and characters who seem to have too much figured out, who seem quick to judge everyone around them without much time spent looking within or how their “teenage attitude” affects the people around them. The characters seem more busy with posturing than being empathetic. However, since we were only given a single chapter from within a larger body of work I do not know if my reading of this character is too limited so I will not criticize too harshly. Megan is a talented writer who has created a strong and potentially interesting character even if that character feels like many I have read before.
I would also recommend Megan do a bit more research. The final scene of her reading takes place outside the radio station in Boston where her character was conceived, but she lists the call sign as KMLX. Radio stations on the east coast do not start their call-sign with the letter “K”, rather “W” is used instead. While this a small detail, in a work which feels autobiographical as this one does this is the sort of mistake which can harm the credibility of the story.
At this point in the evening our hosts set up a large-scale game of Battleship for two random contestants to play on stage during the intermission. Wonderfully crude, handmade battleships laid out on a tarp with taped grid lines were set up and two names were drawn from a sandwich bag. Serendipitously, the reader whose character was poor and starving, Megan Clarke, was selected and won the game and was presented with a combination coffee maker and toaster oven / griddle.
The final reader for the evening was Leah White, MFA student and the TA of this class. Leah read a series of poems each simply titled “Example” which were personal images and memories of her mother whom had passed away not too many years ago. While each poem was brief, each was highly charged with specific imagery – I distinctly remember a pearl necklace – and Leah seemed very interested in the sound of each word, as if she was physically shaping her words as if they were gifts to the audience or as if she were performing an act of conjuring these memories into something more real. I admit to getting lost in each poem (hence my exact memory of each one being poor) and I was struck with how they conveyed the sort of personal details I found familiar in how I remember my Grandmother who passed away many years ago. Leah did not try to describe her mother whole rather she described the parts of her mother which meant the most to her. Perhaps why I thought of my grandmother is because Leah’s poems allowed me to reflect on the loss of someone I loved rather than being forced to imagine someone whom I will never really know, and in this way my grandmother and her mother became a sort of one, a singularity I could relate to at the most personal level. I was deeply moved.