All three Sunday Festival events went off beautifully. A small group of teens gathered at the Otis Public Library under the guidance of Berkshire Magazine editor Anastasia Stanmeyer, who led them through a workshop designed as an introduction to magazine journalism. Anastasia reports that in response to the writing prompt ” Are you ready for spring?” one workshop participant penned this description:
“The whip of the wind and the heavy snowfall desist. Instead, the interplay of birdcalls and running river awaken from the shadows. Spring is here. The feeling of winter has left me gloomy. I always hated to shovel the front driveway, or have no wood left for the fireplace. Such things have their ups and downs—sledding, skiing, and snowman building are some of the many enjoyments winter brings. Even though I love such things, spring sets a different mood: the awakening of wildlife, and the special wisps the trees give, I especially love. It’s both a new beginning for us, and for others. We all begin to take off our heavy jackets and jump into the seasonal shift towards spring.”
Meanwhile, down at the Bushnell-Sage Library in Sheffield, another group of writers gathered for a workshop on the prose poem offered by Festival presenter Jessica Treat.
Jessica gave this report, with a few representative poems that were produced in her workshop:
On Sunday, March 24th from 2-4pm I gave a workshop on The Prose Poem. For each of the participants I’d prepared a packet with various examples of prose poems, from Charles Baudelaire to W.S. Merwin to Anne Carson. We also looked at definitions by Mary Oliver and others. The final poems we read and discussed were “Self-Portrait in Green” by Brian Johnson and “Against Green,” by Sean Thomas Dougherty. Participants were then told to write in response to a color: green, red, orange or purple. What follows are three poems from the workshop. Jane Bernstein, Betsy Selfo and Tony Palmieri generously agreed to share their poems. —Jessica Treat
Self Portrait in Green
Green is for me the color of life — green fruit smoothies dyed vibrantly verdant by the cleansing tide of kale and parsley. Springtime and moss. Valley full of fully dressed trees. Pine and hemlock green all year long, improbable color in the white winter snowscape. Green peas, green beans, green chard, green chives, green tea, green giant. I’m still surprised my blood isn’t green. Why iron instead of chlorophyll?
–Jane Bernstein, Sheffield, MA
Self-portrait in purple for these ropy hands that pat the cat and the homemade noodles and I can’t think of where else these purple hands haven’t been. Oh, a baby’s butt, never in my life. I didn’t want a purple screaming baby yelling for me. “MOMMY, MOMMY.” I had to run away.
—Betsy Selfo, Harwinton, CT
If you’re waiting for an explanation, you’ve come to the wrong house. There is a reason for the red, but it isn’t important. I’ll tell you this: it was about the feel, about changing the texture of the hardwood, the walls, bumpy and mottled but now smooth, waxen. And red. The crayon broke once, like magic, a piece for each hand, and the circles have made my shoulders burn. But the blue is gone, the crayon is gone. When summer comes, the sun will change it anyway, it’ll run or sweat. So just go ahead, you can’t fix it and I won’t explain. So stop asking questions and use your razor.
—Tony Palmieri, Middletown, CT
Finally, up in Pittsfield, mid-county, another group of about 50 gathered at the Lichtenstein Center to hear the oral stories of presenters Carla Oleska, Pauline Dongala and Vera Kalm.
Just another rich and varied day in the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers!