Grist Journal is the literary magazine of the University of Tennessee, and on Thursday the magazine held a fundraiser in Union Avenue Books. The theme was dead writers, and many of us dressed up and performed the poems and fiction of the deceased greats.
Local businesses donated many prizes for the raffle: I ended up with two bags of Intelligentsia coffee and a gift card to a local pub. The readers were great, too (pictures by the very talented Elias Johnson).
We dead writers were judged on our performance, audience response, and costume. Who would win?
I read first, as Tennyson, reciting the opening stanza of Tithonus, which remain to me some of the most beautiful lines in the language. This is my “epic poetry” face.
(picture by Kali Meister)
The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes; I wither slowly in thine arms,
Here at the quiet limit of the world,
A white-hair'd shadow roaming like a dream
The ever-silent spaces of the East,
Far-folded mists, and gleaming halls of morn.
And while the judges added up the scores, I came back to do a quick rendition of “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day.” (picture by Elias Johnson again)
It may have been the green jacket. It may have been the English accent. It may have been the soaring oration of “A white haired shadow, ROAMING like a dreammmmm.” But the judges were swayed, and I was awarded first prize. However, I'm still not completely clear what I won:
These writers are returning to Union Ave books on the evening of November ninth, dressed as themselves, reading short pieces with the theme of “Marooned in the City.” If you live nearby, please come!