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Writers Harvest sows seeds of knowledge

Jason D. Cox
Staff Writer

The University of La Verne’s Prism Review literary magazine worked with the Inland Valley Hope Partners to collect food donations for the approaching holiday season.

At 6 p.m. on Saturday, in the Campus Center Ballroom, a crowd of roughly 30 came to support the efforts of the Inland Valley Hope Partners and see the main event: Writers Harvest, in which seven award-winning Los Angeles writers and poets gave brief readings from their own work.

“It’s for a good cause and I enjoyed hearing all the writers talk,” said junior art history major Margo Cash.

To start things off, Aimee Bender did a reading from a modified combination of the first two chapters of her novel, “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.”

The reading brought to life vivid tastes and scents.

Poet Ching-In Chen then read several selections from her debut collection of poems, “The Heart’s Traffic.”

Her readings included “Button for Mrs. Bettner’s Houseboy” and an emotionally charged rendition of “The True Face of Xiaomei.”

Chen also mentioned developments regarding an organization whose mission it is to preserve history and heritage of Chinese Americans in Riverside and advised anyone interested in this cause to visit saveourchinatown.org.

Next was a reading by Larry Fondation, a writer with a no-holds-barred style of telling stories of brutal reality.

He read selections from his new work, “Martyrs and Holy Men,” and his short story collection, “Unintended Con­sequences.”

Among the selected short stories that Fondation read was an especially sharp and disarming story that has yet to see publication, “Death at Night.”

This story was a harsh look at how fleeting and precious human life is.

“Art doesn’t have to be stuffy,” Fondation said, “I developed a better appreciation for the classics when I realized people could write about their own experiences.”

Author, poet and English professor Tony Barnstone gave an especially entertaining reading.

He began with a few short readings of Chinese erotic poems.

This collection contains poems from numerous sources and authors, from professional writers to the wall of a brothel.

The readings that followed covered much of Barnstone’s professional work, including new work which will soon be released in the form of a tarot card deck.

These cards will have a pair of Barnstone poems printed on the back, one for when the card is right-side up and the other for when the card is played upside-down. These will be marketed as creative writing cards for student writers.

The card Barnstone read was the Death card, which had a cleverness about it that tamed the instinctual fear many people have of death.

Barnstone went on to read selections from his books of collected poems, “Impure,” “The Golem of Los Angeles” and “Tongue of War: From Pearl Harbor to Nagasaki.”

For the two readings from “Tongue of War,” Barnstone assumed the character of those veterans who inspired the writings, telling their stories in their voices as best he could.

The performance by Jen Hofer seemed uniform with the rest of the authors of the night until she started to explain an emerging art form known to some as neo-benshi.

This is when a reader plays movie clips and creates an alternate voiceover for the movie.

Its history is rooted in the East Asian silent film era where in many countries they would need an oral interpreter to translate and narrate the films that came from America.

Hofer read a poem with imagery of war, explosions and with numerous quotes from military personnel depicting their experiences during war time.

Hofer performed this uniquely moving reading as scenes from the film “Kiss Me Deadly” played on the screen behind her.

Cash went on to say that she especially enjoyed the neo-benshi, or “movietelling,” performed by Hofer.

Richard Lange read from the prologue of his book, “This Wicked World,” depicting a man who is deathly ill and has started hallucinating demons and devils as he moves through his daily life.

“I originally wanted to call it ‘This Kissproof World,’ but they told me that title made it sound too much like a romance,” said Lange.

Ralph Angel then approached the stage with a wise and encouraging opening statement.

“It’s late. You’re exhausted. You haven’t had a drink in a couple hours – I’ll be brief,” Angel said.

After this statement, Angel read to his audience the first Psalm from the Hebrew Bible.

He then segued into his own poems, which included “Skittering,” “The Heart of Things,” “Respite,” “Inside-Out” and “But Not in Life,” among others.

The readings seemed to affect Angel as he read them, making his honesty and the truth of these feelings most apparent.

The event was open to the public and admission was free.

Audience members were encouraged to bring a donation of non-perishable food items or a modest cash donation which the Hope Partners will use to help those in need.

Jason D. Cox can be reached at jason.cox@laverne.edu.

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