Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Presents: Fawn (Boston, MA)

A few weeks ago, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop hosted a night of poetry and music at the beautiful Church of the Covenant for our first CWW Presents event in Boston, MA.  The Church of the Covenant offer a massive yet warm and welcoming space to all who enter. We sat in the pews amongst others gathered to appreciate art in all its forms and listened to the art of Audrey HarrerJanaka Stucky , and Fawn.

AHcww.jpg

The night was opened with Audrey Harrer, a composer, harpist, and vocalist who bridge the gap between traditional music and new technology to create haunting melodies that linger with you long after the notes have dissipated into the air. As she plays on the harp or sings during her performance, Audrey records the melodies and melds them into her work, creating harmonies and dissonances that create music that fills the space of a cathedral.

JScww.jpg

As Audrey left the stage, Janaka Stucky stood before us. Janaka is an American poet, the founding editor of Black Ocean, and the poetry journal Handsome. He opened his performance with poetry that both commanded the attention of his audience, but turned to soft intimacy that knocked the wind out of the audience with each new poem. He talked to the audience almost conversationally at one point, and we laughed for a moment, unknowing that a conversation about mechanics would turn to poetry of an army of insects made out of his own body. His performance that evoked imagery that was both unnerving yet so personal reached into a part of people that we are almost afraid of acknowledging, the mortality of our bodies but the permanence of what we leave behind.

Fawn2cww.jpg

The final performance of the night was by the light, melodious strings and vocals of the group Fawn, led by Anne Malin Ringwalt and Will Johnson, who released their debut EP Neither Dog Nor Car in the November of 2016. Their music, a balance struck between the strings of ukulele, banjo, and guitar is so carefully struck with synth it is seamless, yet symbiotic in its need for the other. One song performed was a version of Amazing Grace whose lyrics had been changed to a version the created a connection with the air in our lungs and its connection with the world we inhabit that nearly brought me to tears. It is the nature of their music’s composition and lyrics that brings light into turmoil and releases the tension that comes with the passage of time.

Voice is the oldest way to tell our stories, words and sounds passed down from generation to generation that linger long in memory. We are so grateful to these artists for sharing their voices and music with us, and the Church of the Covenant for giving us such a beautiful welcoming space to share the art of music with the city of Boston.

Our next CWW Presents evening will take place on Friday May 5, 2017 at the Democracy Center and will feature poetry, fiction, and music performances by Elizabeth Devlin, Diana Norma SzokolyaiErini Katopodis, and Rita Banerjee!  Stay tuned for more information on our upcoming CWW Presents evening in Cambridge, MA!

Photos by Yasmina Hilal

Shannon O. Sawyer
CWW Media Development Intern

CWW Grant Writing & Program Development Intern AM Ringwalt’s Folk Duo Featured on Sound of Boston

wwaibGrant Writing & Programming Intern AM Ringwalt recently recorded a single and a five-song EP at The Soul Shop in Medford with her partner Will Johnson. The Cambridge Writer’s Workshop is thrilled to announce that the single, “The Good Earth,” premiered exclusively on Sound of Boston earlier this month. The song is now available for free download on Fawn’s Bandcamp page.

Fawn, Ringwalt and Johnson’s duo, combines elements of banjo, guitar, ukulele, synth and poetry in exploration of the often-ignored spaces between pre-established genres. Neither Dog Nor Car, the duo’s debut EP, will be released in early November.

From Sound of Boston:

Johnny Cash’s version of “The Good Earth” is jaunty and playful, with guitar, strings, and percussion chugging along beneath Cash’s rich, resonant vocals. Fawn takes a different approach, opening with Ringwalt’s delicate voice and Johnson plucking along a nearly stagnant bass line. Fawn adds a heaviness to “The Good Earth,” exploring the depth of the song’s lyrics. “I’ve traveled far and traveled wide/I’ve seen a lot of things./But looking back on all the years/I don’t know what they mean,” Ringwalt sings, adding pauses and drawing out the refrain Cash hurries through.

The duo adds a profundity to the lyrics by taking the time to enunciate each word, with the bass pushing back to support its weight. “This song is a prayer, a celebration of Cash, and, to the best of our knowledge, one of the few (if not the only) female-voiced versions of this song,” said Fawn in a press release.

Unspeakable Things by Kathleen Spivack: A Review by Alex Carrigan

9780385353960Last year, the Syrian refugee crisis became a point of international discussion.  The Syrian Civil War has seen millions of Syrians displaced and fleeing into neighboring countries. In between news reports of nations closing their borders and celebrities advocating for refugee aid, we heard stories about the people who made it out. We heard about what and who they lost escaping the war zone, the challenges they faced fleeing the country, and the difficulties of starting new lives in different nations.

When I picked up the newest book from poet, educator, former CWW faculty member, and CREDO contributor Kathleen Spivack, I found myself entrenched in a different mass exodus, though one of equal gravity. Unspeakable Things, Spivack’s first novel, follows several characters who escaped World War II-Europe and are attempting to start anew in New York City. These characters include a beautiful and physically deformed former countess, her Esperanto-speaking cousin, his institutionalized wife, his granddaughter who is going through a physical and emotional crisis, a pediatrician who dabbles in genetic experiments for his Führer, and a string quartet who were driven out of their home following a disastrous concert and the loss of their little fingers. These characters influence each other’s tales, as the unspeakable events of the War continue to effect them.

Spivack’s characters are united by an almost obsessive interest in memory and the past.  Some characters are haunted by their pasts, some still bear the marks of terrible events, and others embrace the past as part of a progression. What differentiates Spivack’s characters on a thematic level is how they choose to let the past affect them–whether it will be saving, destructive, or something else.

6odLzoK-ReQPwOcvZbfWrdFOulc08fdeMOZ6m28nwOUSpivack imbues her tale with a lovely attention to music. For many of Spivack’s characters–the Tolstoi Quartet (so named because they consider Tolstoi the most universal writer, which I love), for example– music is life. These musicians once lived together, sharing beds with their instruments while their wives slept on the floor. When they lose their little fingers and the ability to play as a result, they are only concerned about steadying their instruments. Additionally, the institutionalized woman is a former concert pianist, and it is the prospect of her music that keeps her husband striving to improve her health. Spivack even gives the author’s dedication “To music, which forgives everything.”

Part of what makes Spivack’s tale unique is her use of magical realism. It is rare that a novel treats World War II via magical realism, so I was intrigued by Spivack’s use of genre. In this book, inanimate objects can react and emote, reflecting the mental and emotional states of their owners. In one chapter, the countess character spends two weeks in an affair with the mystic monk Rasputin, who then leaves his hand prints burnt onto her inner thighs. For her, the prints mark shame and sacrifice and continue to throb, burn, and react decades after the affair. For another character, the ghost of her son is a reminder of what the family lost when they fled Europe, but also a symbol for her fractured mental state.

In terms of critique, I did feel at times that Unspeakable Things lacked subtlety. While I thought that some symbols, such as Rasputin’s hand prints and the ghost son, were interesting and fitting, there were times where things were a little too on-the-nose, or too deliberately provocative. For example, we know that the pediatrician is a bad guy because he molests his child patients and has their mothers pay for checkups with their bodies, all while conducting genetic experiments to create a super race. Did we also need to see him wear lingerie and makeup while masturbating to a photo of Hitler? Probably not. There were times where I thought Spivack could have tried to work certain elements in more organically, or just removed them altogether.

Despite this, I did enjoy reading Unspeakable Things. I loved that there was always a turn when I thought I knew what was going to happen.  Overall, it reminded me of Japanese filmmaker Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses. Oshima’s is a film that, while extremely erotic, contains important political and social criticism and a fascinating storyline.  Additionally, I give Spivack credit for making the transition from poetry to fiction; her language and writing style are often beautiful. I hope that she continues to write novels, and I hope that she returns to certain ideas and images from this book. For those readers who want an erotic, magical historical fiction novel, with great imagery and style, Unspeakable Things is worth the read.

–Alex Carrigan, CWW Managing Intern

For more information on Kathleen Spivack and Unspeakable Things, visit her website

LitCrawl Manhattan: Literary Masquerade – Sept 13, 8pm – presented by the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop

cwwliterarymasquerade2014

Featured in Time Out New York!  

Literary Masquerade

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop hosts a literary masquerade with writers and performance artists Gregory Crosby, Diana Norma Szokolyai, Jonah Kruvant, Elizabeth Devlin, Rita Banerjee, and Nicole Colbert. Original readings and performances will be intermingled with musings on masks from Pessoa, Kierkegaard, Descartes, Dickinson, de Beer, and more. There will be masks. There will be libations. There will be paint and skin.  Join us at LitCrawl Manhattan.

SAT.  SEPTEMBER 13 * 8:15 p.m.
One Mile House, 10 Delancey St., NY, NY 10002

Gregory Crosby is the author of the chapbook Spooky Action at a Distance (2014, The Operating System); his poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including Court Green, Epiphany, Copper Nickel, Leveler, Sink Review, Ping Pong, & Rattle. In 2002, as a poetry consultant to the City of Las Vegas, he was instrumental in the creation of the Lewis Avenue Poets Bridge, a public art project in downtown Las Vegas. His dedicatory poem for the project, “The Long Shot,” was subsequently reproduced in bronze and installed in the park, and was included in the 2008 anthology Literary Nevada: Writings from the Silver State (University of Nevada Press). He is co-editor of the online poetry journal Lyre Lyre and currently teaches creative writing at Lehman College, City University of New York.

Diana Norma Szokolyai is a writer/performance artist/educator. She teaches 9-12 year-olds in a Montessori learning environment, and is also Artistic Director of Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, where she teaches and organizes writing and yoga retreats for adult writers. She is author of the poetry collections Parallel Sparrows (honorable mention for Best Poetry Book in the 2014 Paris Book Festival) and Roses in the Snow (first runner-up Best Poetry Book at the 2009 DIY Book Festival). She has poetry forthcoming in the anthologies The Highwaymen NYC Annual # 2 and Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History and has also had her fiction, essays, and poetry published in The Fiction Project, Lyre Lyre, The Boston Globe, Dr. Hurley’s Snake Oil Cure, and Always Wondering, among others. She performs with Parallel Sonic, ChagallPAC, and the Brooklyn Soundpainting Ensemble.

Elizabeth Devlin is a modern day renaissance woman, if not composing music for the solo, autoharp wielding, singer-songwriter act, ELIZABETH DEVLIN, she can be found crafting Illustrations/Graphi¬cs at DEVLIN DESIGN AND ILLUSTRATION, playing electric bass and singing as front woman for Brooklyn based rock band, VALVED VOICE, or curating a fresh new line-up for the THE HIGHWAYMEN NYC, a Brooklyn based, monthly, poetry reading series that meets on the full moon.

Rita Banerjee is a writer, and received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. She holds an MFA in Poetry and her writing has been published in Poets for Living Waters, The New Renaissance, The Fiction Project, Jaggery, The Crab Creek Review, The Dudley Review, Objet d’Art, Vox Populi, Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure, and Chrysanthemum among other journals. Her first collection of poems,Cracklers at Night, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2010 and received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book at the 2011-2012 Los Angeles Book Festival. Her novella, A Night with Kali, was digitized by the Brooklyn Art-house Co-op in 2011. She is a co-director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, and her writing has been recently featured on HER KIND by VIDA: Women in Literary Artsand on KBOO Radio’s APA Compass in Portland, Oregon.

Jonah Kruvant is a writer, teacher, and student of the world. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Skidmore College, his Master’s degree in Teaching from Fordham University, and his MFA degree in Creative Writing from Goddard College. After living abroad in four different countries, Jonah settled in New York. The Last Book Ever Written is his first novel. Visit his website at www.jonahk.net.

Nicole Colbert (“Harlequin Loves Columbine”) teaches English at Kingsborough Community College-CUNY. She takes fiction writing classes with Rachel Sherman in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Her non-fiction work, including interviews & reviews, has appeared in the Village Voice, Park Slope Reader, and New York Spirit Magazine. As a former dancer and choreographer, she still enjoys performing. She is the proud mother of two very creative children.

CWW’s Diana Norma Szokolyai Performs with Parallel Sonic at Barbes

bbc_child1-617x1024Parallel Sonic (Diana Norma Szokolyai, Dennis Shafer Teerapat Gof Parnmongkol and Jessie Nelson) will be playing as part of the Bushwick Book Club at Barbes on June 25.  The Bushwick BookClub chooses a different book every month and invites performing artists to create a performance related to the work. Tonight, come hang out with us for and see the different experimental performances based on Julia Child’s book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Wed. June 25, 2014 7p.m.
Parallel Sonic at Bushwick BookClub
Barbes, 376 9th St, Brooklyn, NY (at 6th ave and 9th st)

Bach’s Inventions + Poetry feat. Diana Norma Szokolyai, Tara Skurtu, Nicole Terez Dutton, Dennis Shafer, & Kathleen Spivack

Bach-GoesPopChagallPAC presents:
BACH’S INVENTIONS + POETRY
Saturday May 3, 2014 * 8pm *  $5/10

OUTPOST 186
186.5 Hampshire Street
Inman Square, Cambridge, MA
[ Central Square T-Stop ]

Join us for a night of poetry and beautiful musical interludes from Bach’s Inventions.  The interplay between baroque music and poetic voices will set you soaring.  Featured poets include CWW Executive Artistic Director Diana Norma Szokolyai, CWW Board Member Kathleen Spivack, and former CWW Board Member Tara Skurtu along with poet Nicole Terez Dutton.  Featured musicians include Brian Abbot on guitar, Jon Amon on sax, Tim Pence on guitar, Dennis Shafer on sax, Alec Watson on piano, and Jobey Wilson on tuba.  This event is featured in The Boston Globe and Tara Skurtu’s poetry is featured on WBUR.