Attending the last two readings of this year’s Port Townsend Writer’s Conference, I was struck by the energy from both the readers and the audience. After a week of readings, workshops, lectures it would be easy for a group to wear down. This conference ended the week with two vibrant and stimulating readings.
Kathleen Alcala and Chris Abani read Friday night to a packed house. Alcala’s haunting essay about filicide was both sobering and thought-provoking. Abani followed with a reading whose theme reverberated with that of Alcala. Readings with this sort of inspired spontaneity are a rare treat.
Kim Addonizio and Gary Lilley finished the conference with a dynamic reading punctuated with the blues. They traded poems like jazz soloists trading fours and their two voices, radically different (both their literal voice and their stylistic voice on the page) created dissonance and harmony as themes of war, love, sex, tragedy flew between them. Lilley’s smooth voice spoke or sang along with Addonizio’s lively harmonica as lovely counterpoint to their poems.
As I left the Joseph Wheeler theater the chatter between individuals was that perfect blend of satisfaction and stimulation. The tone of the conference was one of providing (information, models, entertainment) and one of whetting the creative palate’s appetite. This is exactly what one wants from such an experience. And is there a better landscape in the world to walk out into after hearing great literature than the sun setting over Fort Warden? It is an experience difficult to improve upon.
I congratulate the Centrum staff, the faculty, and the participants for a great week.