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Writers Come to see Writers.

I have a lot of HoCoPoLitSo memories. They start from way back when I was in high school and I had no idea the organization existed or what it did. All I remember was that I was on a field trip that left me wanting to be Derek Walcott once I grew up. Though a favorite HoCoPoLitSo memory, that is another story. Today I want to share a few moments of writers coming to see writers and what an honor it is to be in the midst of such occasion.

Many stories start with Irish Evening for HoCoPoLitSo. It is a landmark event. I think my awareness of other writers coming to HoCoPoLitSo events to see our headliner started one such evening. Maybe it was the Guinness, but more probably it was Colm Tóibín that brought Colum McCann down to our neck of the woods from his Manhattan apartment for the 21st annual Irish Evening. At that point in the now world famous career of Tóibín, it was a rare thing to him to this side of the Atlantic. McCann took advantage and a train to visit Columbia a year after he himself had read for Irish Evening.

I remember little of the reading that night. I seldom remember Irish Evenings and that is not for the drinking that often followed. They are labor intensive occasions to produce and I tend to be tending to that aspect. Tóibín’s voice is still in my head and bits of The Heather Blazing from that reading; I did catch some of it. What I do remember is that there were a handful of folks, me lucky enough to be among them, that headed off into the night with a number of bottles to listen to Colm and Colum talk about writing once the event was done and packed away. What an honor.

Quite recently, Colum McCann, now many books into his fame, came to another Irish Evening to read from Transatlantic, just about to be published. It was his first reading of the work to an audience and a fascinating occasion as he caught a sentence he hadn’t right and promised us he would go back to the galleys to correct it. An honest moment in the creative process.

I spotted a number of Howard County writers in attendance that evening. They were joined by none other than Alice McDermott and, I am told, George Pelicanos. The two had come from Baltimore and Washington, respectively, to take in one of the masters of prose in suburban Columbia. If we are dropping names here, I’ll add that the Governor came from Annapolis and even joined in to play with the band. After the evening at the green room party, McCann himself joined in the singing of songs.

StanleyKunitz

Stanley Kunitz in his garden on the cover of his book The Wild Braid.

Perhaps my favorite coming together of writers to see a particularly treasured writer was for the poet Stanley Kunitz in 1993. We all knew Mr. Kunitz was old old, 88, and that this would be the last opportunity we would have to see him. In a space that no longer exists as a venue for readings – the lower Nursing Lounge on the campus of Howard Community College – Kunitz read to a standing room only crowd that adored each and every syllable. The audience well knew his work and you could tell that he could tell: he put on a commanding performance.

I remember crowded in that room with us were Carolyn Forché and Gregory Orr who had come up from the University of Virginia for the occasion.  Afterwards at a reception, all whispered to each other in awe and confirmed how lucky we were to have shared this intimate occasion with the great Stanley Kunitz. I went on to hear him read a number of times since that occasion: our collective luck grew as he lived to be 100.

Why do writers come to see other writers? For the occasion of Kunitz, it was likely reverence and the notion of ‘this might be the last time’ and one not to miss. On other occasions, it is probably more outright a taking in of craft, an opportunity to learn and admire. I know I go see other writers to learn and affirm what common language can do in the hands of masters. Thank you for that, HoCoPoLitSo.

 

Tim Singleton
Co-chair, HoCoPoLitSo Board

 

Have a favorite HoCoPoLitSo memory? HoCoPoLitSo is currently celebrating its 4oth season and would love to hear from you. Visit the Share Your Memory page and share a favorite story or two with us. As we collect favorite memories, we’ll share them in a future blog posts.

HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life: A Number of Additional Episodes Now Online.

You’ll find a number of new episodes have recently been posted onto the HoCoPoLitSo YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/hocopolitso.

In part, you’ll find:

  • Novelist Carrie Brown speaks with short story writer Edith Pearlman. (2012)
  • Michael Dirda speaks with Marie Arana about her memoir Marie Arana speaks with writer and editor Michael Dirda about her memoir, “American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood,” and the ghost of culture. (2001)
  • Sue Ellen Thompson in conversation with Mark Doty about on memory, mackerel and verse. (2010)
  • Claire Keegan talks of the art of subtraction with Terence Winch. (2010)

Look also for episodes featuring Colm Tóibin, Manil Suri, Mary Gordan, Li-Young Lee, Alice McDermott and Joy Harjo. And here is Michael Harper talking about the poetry of Sterling Brown with Roland Flint:





If you are logged into YouTube through your own account, you can follow the HoCoPoLitSo channel and get updates every time there are new posts.

HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life archives, featuring contemporary writers in conversation with other writers, are being digitized and put online as a resource for the world over. As with any such project, this effort can use your support. If you are willing and able, please make a donation to HoCoPoLitSo to ensure the continued success of this project and its contribution to the world’s literary heritage. Thank you.

HoCoPoLitSo to Welcome Colum McCann to the 35th Irish Evening – Tickets now on sale.

Colum McCann. Photo by Brendan Bourke.

The international award winning author Colum McCann is HoCoPoLitSo’s guest for its 35th Annual Irish Evening at 7:30 pm, March 1, 2013 at the Smith Theater, Horowitz Center for Visual and Performing Arts on the campus of Howard Community College.

General Admission Tickets are available at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/287811 or by sending a check payable and mailed to HoCoPoLitSo, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, DH 239, Columbia, MD 21044. Tickets purchased before Feb. 1, 2013 are $30 each, $35 if purchased after Feb. 2.

So Many Stories to Be Told: An Evening with Colum McCann will highlight this major voice in today’s literary landscape’s with a discussion of his National Book Award winning novel Let the Great World Spin and his upcoming novel, Transatlantic, due out in late 2013.

McCann’s reading will be followed by Narrowbacks, Eileen Korn, Jesse Winch, Terence Winch, Linda Hickman, and Brendan Mulvihill on fiddle in a concert of traditional Irish music with stepdancers from the Culkin School.

McCann, a two-time winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the most lucrative literary award in the world, has published 5 novels and numerous short stories and articles. In 2003 McCann was named Esquire Magazine’s “Best and Brightest” young novelist. He has also been awarded a Pushcart Prize, the Rooney Prize, the Irish Novel of the Year Award and the 2002 Ireland Fund of Monaco Princess Grace Memorial Literary Award. He was recently inducted into the Hennessy Hall of Fame.

McCann follows other great Irish authors who have come to Howard County including Frank McCourt, Eavan Boland, Hugo Hamilton, Colm Tóibín, Paul Durcan and Paula Meehan to name a few. For years, HoCoPoLitSo’s Irish Evening has recognized and celebrated the enormous impact of Irish-born writers on the world of contemporary literature.

Now online: Belinda McKeon in Conversation with Colm Tóibín on HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life.

The episode of HoCoPoLitSo’s TV show The Writing Life, featuring Belinda McKeon hosting Colm Tóibín, is available through February for online viewing at http://www.howardcc.edu/Visitors/hcctv/programming/writinglife.html. In town for the 33rd annual Evening of Irish Music & Writing this time last year, the two sat down to have a literary conversation in Howard Community College’s TV studio. Through the half hour, they discuss Tóibín’s books and shed light on his work as a writer.

Tóibín’s list of achievements is long, his talent, vast. He is known and awarded for his novels and short stories and for his journalism and literary criticism, as well. This was his second appearance for HoCoPoLitSo’s Irish Evening.

Belinda McKeon reading the Form and Structure issue of Little Patuxent Review.

Playwright and novelist Belinda McKeon’s debut novel Solace, published last year, has won the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book of the Year (2011) and Ireland’s Sunday Independent recognized her with its Best Newcomer Award.

The annual Irish Evening is a perennial favorite and a highpoint to each HoCoPoLitSo season. This year a reading by memoirist and novelist Hugo Hamilton will be followed by the Irish music of the Narrowbacks accompanied by traditional Irish step dancers on Friday, February 17th at Smith Theater on the campus of Howard Community College in Columbia. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets online.

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Watch the episode: http://www.howardcc.edu/Visitors/hcctv/programming/writinglife.html

Note: this episode aired on the Howard Community Website for the month of February 2012. Episodes are featured on that site for a month at time, each new month brings a new episode or encore performance. To visit a growing and permanent archive of The Writing Life episodes online, visit the HoCoPoLitSo YouTube Channel.

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