Judith Kitchen and Stan Sanvel Rubin Read at Darvill's March 11

Those who know this month’s Artsmith Salon Series featured readers, Judith Kitchen and Stan Sanvel Rubin, know that the past few years have been a time of prolific writing despite the devastating effects of cancer on Judith’s health and both their lives. The cancer is now in remission, and Judith and Stan have recently had published a novella-length essay and a collection of poetry, respectively. Books that aren’t necessarily meant to speak to each other, but when read together (or listened to at a reading) create poignant and moving connections. Can we draw conclusions from how Judith writes of dreams where she tries to convince her late mother to say that her daughter will die while Stan writes a series of poems reminiscent of Neruda's odes, but each set in wartime, as though the essayist is trying to help her loved ones prepare for all eventualities while the poet focuses on the trauma and aftermath of battle? Can we make assumptions about their personal battles, individually and as a couple, with cancer, fear, or even the choice not to approach cancer a "battle?" Can we help but be inspired by and grateful to two masters of their craft who transform the fear of ruin into an appreciation of all our collective moments, ruinous or otherwise?

Judith was recently honored at the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference for her lifetime contributions to literature and being one of the most highly regarded writers and critics in the world today. Stan is also a highly acclaimed poet and critic, whose latest poetry collection, There. Here. from Lost Horse Press, has garnered praise for its silence that "has rarely spoken more clearly than in poems whose whittled-down sounds find war in the hulls of pine nuts and human nature in the folds of an accordion” (Linda Bierds). Among their many other accomplishments, Judith and Stan founded Pacific Lutheran University's low residency MFA in Creative Writing, now celebrating its tenth year.

Judith and Stan will read at Darvill’s Bookstore on Orcas Island Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 6pm. As always, a stimulating Q&A will follow the reading along with hors d’oeuvres and book-signing. For a hint of their writing, and to get a sense of the interplay between their poetry and essays, here are two excerpts. Notice how each draws from past, present, and future—from memory, moment, and metaphor—in ways that reminds us that love is the life well lived.

In The Circus Train, Judith writes:

“There’s something I have to say about the good properties of metastasis. It’s certain. There’s no backing out, so you are forced to accept. It’s a little bit like that column of dust in the old Westerns, far in the distance, but announcing its presence as it takes its interminable time coming closer and closer until, suddenly, there it is with a shape and the horse gallops up hard in your face and stops still, all lathery, and you know you are just about to hear some news of some sort. From then on, it’s all first person. Or sort of.

“Mid-May. The apple trees in the yard behind our house have blossomed so that, waking, I look into a sea of white clouds. I could go back to apple trees, the peculiar branchings that make for good climbing, my mother’s voice calling me down. Instead, I see a young girl alone, crouched on a hot day in early June, sifting the dirt of the strawberry patch. Each runner shoots out its individual white flower. Tiny, tinged with pink. But I am intent on the sifting, the sun a poultice on my neck, warm and filled with silence. Each ray streaks upward toward its source. In front of me, a soft pile of sifted dirt, silken, the texture of talc. My hand smoothes and smoothes it, leaving little trails of fingermarks. My hair pulls loose from my braids and makes a haze of sunlight around my head. The breeze is softer than the dirt, like a finger brushed over the forehead. I do not remember what I was thinking, but that I was thinking. Alone with my thoughts. With the dirt and the breeze and my own sense of self that did not disappear with my mother’s call.”

The Circus Train (Ovenbird Books, 2014)

In There. Here., Stan writes:

Meteor in War Time

We lie on the moonlit deck
long after midnight to watch
the streaking Aurigids
display their dazzle,
rare fireworks seen
just three times
dating from the comet
that broke past the sun
when Julius Caesar
was in charge
of the wars that mattered.

I see nothing, you say,
but a few weak stars.
From an air mattress
we scan the sky
with the intense peripheral wariness
of those whose mission
is to spot bombers
before they reach the city,
and I see one falling
in a swift arc
over our heads.

 There. Here.  (Lost Horse Press, 2013)


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