Friday, July 17, 2009

The Gathering Theme Takes Shape

As has been noted on previous posts, this year's theme at The Gathering is "There and Back Again: Time, Place and Story." Today's speakers built on the foundation from last night's kick-off, and I think, as big and ephemeral as it is, the concept is starting to take shape. That said, I'm not sure I can explain it just yet. The idea is fraught with paradox, but the sense of it, at least to me, is the idea that all stories are journeys (and vice-versa). The time and the place of the story provides a frame of reference for the journey, and those who travel down creative pathways return all the richer for their expanded perspectives.

Today's journey started with poetry reading, and one poem in particular, "Eat Dirt" by Constance Garcia Barrio provided an outstanding perspective on the richness of dirt, while starting our metaphysical travels in a suitably grounded way (if you'll excuse the pun).

After the poetry, Nancy Willard gave the first lecture, entitled "The Secret Life of Doors." My fellow blogger from the event has already described the lecture in a previous post, so I'll just mention how impressed I was by Nancy's ability to turn very big ideas into very accessible words and phrases. She truly has a gift for language.

A panel discussion followed the first lecture, and as a group we explored the notions of time, place and story in relation to music and film. Moderated by Erika Funke, this freewheeling discussion ranged from concepts of the nature of creativity to the techniques and processes of creative expression.

This was followed by lunch, which lets me offer a quick word about meals at The Gathering. Not only is the food excellent, but by sitting down at meal time with authors, speakers, and fellow participants, you really gain an appreciation of the informal -- and yet always informative -- nature of this event.

The afternoon lecture by Joanna Rudge Long tackled the synthesis of our theme with books by Charles Seife, T.S. Eliot, Lewis Carrol and Peter Sis. No small task, but Joanna, ably assisted by her husband Norwood, rose to the challenge with aplomb. So, now I know how advanced cosmology, beginnings and endings, dreams, Galileo (to gather just a few of the strands of this far-ranging lecture) contribute to the cycles of creativity and existence.

Which brings us to tonight's appearance by Salman Rushdie. I think we're all well prepared to hear his thoughts about Time, Place and Story in relation to his own special brand of fiction -- I'll let you know how it goes.

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