by Erica German
What can I say about the Butte College Reading Series? Once again, it showcased three incredibly talented authors. This time, Rob Davidson, Troy Jollimore, and Susan Wooldridge entertained Butte College students and members of the community in the student lounge of Butte College’s Chico Center on April 19, 2012. Each gave a playful presentation, providing background information and explanations which further enriched their literary artwork.
Davidson kicked off the evening by first expressing his disappointment that the speaker, that was connected to the microphone, would no longer broadcast fragments of literature to the cars traveling along Highway 99, as it had by then, been brought indoors. As the laughter faded, Davidson began to read from his story collection “The Farther Shore.” He read about the expectancy of a child, from the father’s perspective; he read about preparations for the new bundle of joy and how these preparations are woven fast in the tapestry of consumerism; and, he read about anticipating a sexual encounter with his wife, an expectant mother. I was shamelessly amused. These humorous snippets of relatable life experiences, Davidson calls them “object lessons,” hung in the air, even as he reseated himself in the front row of the audience.
Jollimore rose to front and center, beginning with a few short love poems. Then, he shared a few “really recent poems,” and eventually got around to his poem “My Book.” He informed his audience that there was a simple reason for the seemingly random cows in the field mentioned in his poem, “My Book;” he had been sitting in a field with cows all around when he wrote the first draft—the cows had survived all subsequent revisions. Jollimore went on to read and discuss “Charlie Brown,” another of his works of art. He had considered the Charlie Brown Christmas Special to be a surreal and necessary component of his childhood and in writing the poem, had wondered what Charlie Brown would be like as a grown up, what drink the adult Charlie Brown would order at a bar (only in the mind of a writer can thoughts like these flow freely). Jollimore’s poem answers the question, but I won’t spoil it for those of you who might not have read the poem yet. Before taking his seat in the audience, he mentioned the cento technique. Using the cento technique involves creating a poem of your very own, using only phrases from other written works. Jollimore appreciates the temporary limits this technique places on his working vocabulary, stating that the entirety of the English language can seem overwhelming at times. He suggested that the confines of cento writing exercises can be useful in overcoming writer’s block. I will definitely be trying this technique out in the near future.
Finally, Wooldridge took her turn. She maintained the comedic nature of the reading, not taking long to confess that the best poems are the ones that you write when you really should be focusing on something else, something like working or driving. Nodding my head, I laughed, able to relate to this idea of using writing as a means to procrastination. After reading an example of a “work” poem she had written, she took the audience on a drive with one of her “driving” poems. Then, Wooldridge discussed sleeping poems and read from her published book of poems, “Bathing With Ants.” She finished her reading with a most charming poem about excuses. I was delighted when, as promised, she played Happy Birthday on the harmonica, in honor of the event’s host, poet Amy Antongiovanni.
A brief question and answer session followed the entertainment. After the Q&A, treats were served. The local Lyon’s Bookstore offered up their time to make the readers’ books available to audience members. Davidson, Jollimore, and Wooldridge were available to sign books. I proudly admit to procuring a signature in my very own copy of Wooldridge’s “poemcrazy.” All three of these fabulous writers will be presenting at the upcoming WordFire writing conference, on April 28, 2012. Rob Davidson will be the keynote speaker. For more information about these authors and WordFire, you can go to http://buttewordfire.org/