Reading their minds: Writers share work
It began as an impulse, a "what if," casually thrown into a dead of Island winter conversation, and the result, first demonstrated on Tuesday, March 2, was an animated gathering of Island writers and friends crowding into the chairs between the bookshelves on the second floor at Bunch of Grapes to listen as essays, poems, and excerpts were read.
The evening salon was the idea of author Kate Feiffer, who joined forces with playwright and author Nicole Galland. The word was sent out inviting any and all Island writers to come to Bunch of Grapes, which would remain open Tuesdays from 7 to 9 pm for the occasions.
And come they did. Writers and readers meeting and greeting, stirring up an anticipatory energy as the chairs filled. The first seven or eight to sign up took a turn reading. From novice to published authors, from 15 to 80 years old, they formed an extraordinary diversity united only by the commonality of their reverence for the craft and by the impressive quality of their work.
Acting as master of ceremony, a beaming Ms. Galland offered welcome, and explained that the event would be held every Tuesday except the last one in March, with the likelihood of it being extended to April (National Poetry Month). For writers, an essentially solitary lot, it was the equivalent of jumping into a box of Chilmark Chocolates.
Shirley Mayhew, looking relaxed and comfortable, provided a wonderful beginning with "Fishwife," her humorous essay on being married to a fisherman. Using dialogue and first-person details, she elicited both laughter and applause for her smartly written work.
Poet Laura Roosevelt followed reading five humorous haikus on hangovers, along with two other contemporary pieces. Paul Magid, a retired attorney for the government, held the room in rapt attention as he read from his meticulously researched book on the Indian fighter George Cook. Herb Foster offered an enthusiastic delivery of the introduction of his provocative book, "Yiddish and Jive in American English."
One by one the writers settled into a cushioned wicker chair and faced a demonstratively appreciative audience.
Jess Dupon, a student at the M.V. Public Charter School, dazzled the gathering with her poems: "She was lost in the universe that existed in her mind…"
Whenever the five-minute mark was reached, a dutiful Maddy Feiffer (Kate's daughter), acting as the timer, tapped a shopkeeper's bell, its timid "ding" signaling an end.
William Marks read an excerpt from "A Ride for Nature," his remarkable account of riding across the country on horseback, published in National Geographic's recently released "Written in Water: A Message for the Future." Ding.
Psychic Sarah Nevin shared from her taped sessions on incarnations, explaining the purpose that is fulfilled by the soul creating incarnations on earth. Ding.
The room observed awed silence as Charter School student Hannah Van Derlaske read from her novel in progress about a life-changing bout with cancer. Her descriptions and dialogues captured the mood and moment with pathos and deft touches of sarcasm.
The evening was a banquet of talent and subjects. When the mingling began, when praise, laughter, handshakes and wine were passed around, and the refreshments (provided by Cash & Carry) sampled, Mr. Marks began talking to Mr. Foster about his work, and Ms. Nevin wondered if information about getting published might be shared, and Tony Horwitz told people to come again and bring a friend, and Ms. Feiffer beamed. Bunch of Grapes owner Dawn Braasch summed it up: "I love having conversations like this around here."
The next session of writers reading their work at Bunch of Grapes will feature Tony Horwitz on Tuesday, March 23, from 7 to 9 pm.