Last Thursday, 19 February, yours truly had the honor and pleasure to share inspiration and inspired work at The Emerald Tablet’s “Under the Influence” co-founded and hosted by writer Evan Karp. Tucked away in North Beach central, the venue is both a cozy and spacious spot featuring some beautifully impressive artwork by Tibor Simon-Mazula. During introductions, Karp asked the audience how many had been to The Emerald Tablet before, and out of a packed house, only one person raised their hand, so the event brought in a roomful of newbies, including myself.
Tapped to read first, I dutifully followed “Under the Influence’s” ekphrastic guidelines and read completely new work, written for the evening and inspired by Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics, Robert MacFarlane’s Wild Places (and though I didn’t mention it that evening, but also Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost).
Since yours truly was coming down from all those butterflies after reading first, I hope I can be forgiven for failing to snap a pic of second reader Patrick Newson, who shared an excerpt from his fellow Oregonian Ken Kesey, and then dived right into some fiction with New Zealand as both background and character: “always in the shadow of that big brother to the West…where language is only a barrier for the weak. ”
Thaisa Frank had stories nestled inside stories, which was part of the spirit she channeled that evening, an 19th century writing desk. She described the writing desk as an instrument for “gentlemen of means” and explained how the desk had recently been stolen otherwise it would have been sitting on stage before us. Years ago though, her mother convinced her to buy the antique during a family trip to Brontë country. Frank spoke of how influence can cause anxiety, calling on Harold Bloom, but she found that losing the writing desk was also freeing in a sense. In the chest was her mother’s journals, which reading later after her mother had passed, she realized, despite the difficulties of their relationship, many of the entries could have been written by Frank herself.
Abbie Amadio, also a fiction writer had one of the most memorable bios, admitting she was worried about technological detachment and conspiracy theories. Reading from a novel-in-progress, she channelled Bret Easton Ellis, knowing full well the kind of reaction he typically draws from readers. Amadio explained how she came to read Ellis for the night, by closing her eyes and randomly pulling a book from her shelf. Her piece was about a telephone survey collecting data for memory enhancement: “I hear my robotic voice and type Jerry P’s memory to databank and already forget it soon as its typed.”
Filmmaker Joe Stillwater and his daughter shared one of their favorite children’s author who wrote the story Moonman, Frank Ungerer. They showed pictures of Moonman looking down on Earth and getting jealous of all the people having fun. So Moonman crashes onto Earth and gets arrested but because he’s a moon he can slim himself down during his phase to escape.
The father-daughter reading gave yours truly an idea, and now I’m hoping to host lit events where writers with kids bring their kids to read a story or share a piece of art that influences both parent and child, and then a parent reads his or her work. We’ll see if we can get this in the mix.
Always a treat to be out and about inspired by local artists and by local environs. Thanks “Under the Influence” for this artistic drunken affair! To see how it all went down, check out the video here: