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Three Writers Celebrate Book Launch at the Robert Frost Museum

Photo by Iris Robert

A crowd of students, faculty, and Bennington community members gathered outside of the Robert Frost Museum on Tuesday, September 26th. The air grew chilly as the sun slowly bathed the trees in light. A small red barn held tables with charcuterie boards, samosas, spring rolls, and potstickers, with select chutneys and sauces for dipping. There was lemonade and cucumber water and a separate table with various wines and alcoholic beverages. The crowd mingled around while filling up plates and gathered outside on the grass in folding chairs, adirondack chairs, and picnic tables. A small podium was set up with a speaker and a table was set aside nearby with copies of the authors’ books.

Michael Dumanis read first from his most recently published book of poetry, Creature. He read several poems, including my personal favorite, “Autobiography,” in which each poem begins with the letter A. Before each poem, Michael shared an anecdote about the poem and biographical details (i.e., one poem about his son and how he would attack Michael when he was young) which made the reading feel more personal. One of the lines from one of Michael’s poems that stuck with me was being in the “Price Chopper parking lot waiting for the rapture.” He discussed writing in which the usual moment seems endless, which is a through line within the poems from this reading. Usual moments are magnified until they become metaphors for the greater and greatest occurrences in one’s life.

Genevieve Plunkett ‘11 read from her debut novel, In the Lobby of the Dream Hotel. I enjoyed this reading from the novel, which is about a young mother diagnosed with bipolar disorder who falls in love with the drummer of her band and stops taking her medication, which is when her husband intervenes. One line that stood out to me: “The world was a beautiful child’s hair and Portia was an old lady who wanted to run her hands through it.” The novel was full of striking and memorable lines like this, and I’m excited to read more.

Lastly, as it became even colder outside and the sun was setting further down in the pink sky, Mary Ruefle ‘74 read a story that isn’t included in her recently published work, The Book, which made the reading feel more special. The piece was about Mary’s long relationship with a homeless man who lived in Bennington, and the ways in which they grew a friendship over the years, until his death. It was a bittersweet and engaging story, and everyone I talked to about it said they wanted to hear more. She wrote about specific memories of him, like when he would take two big tubs, one full of pennies, and hold each one up to the sun before dropping it into the other tub. She also wrote about the times when she wanted to help him but couldn’t, and the hopelessness she felt when he slept outside in a car during the worst of winter.

The readings ended and people gathered to buy copies of the authors’ books and get autographs. I spoke with each of the writers briefly. Genevieve and I talked about her being a Bennington alum and me also being a literature student. She mentioned memorable professors (including Marguerite Feitlowitz) and we talked about In the Lobby of the Dream Hotel. I spoke with Michael about his poem “Autobiography” and others that I enjoyed. I waited in line for a few minutes to speak with Mary Ruefle, who was reaching out to her friend for her purse so she could grab a cigarette. I told her how much I had enjoyed the reading and that I was writing a piece for Bennington’s student-run newspaper, and she told me that she loved reading the paper that students ran when she went to Bennington. We also talked about her erasure poems, one of which is painted on the wall of the Robert Frost Museum: “Stopping,” an erasure of Frost’s “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening.” 

I left the event feeling excited about the creative energy spreading through Bennington right now. The recent reading in the Franklin common room, the day after the Robert Frost Museum reading, by Auzin Ahmadi and Bruna Dantas Lobato ‘15, was an inspiring and striking reading of poetry and fiction. With so many literature events on and off campus recently, it’s a treat to be able to speak with the writers and hear how, despite the difference of years and experience between us, there are still common threads of a favorite professor, a favorite place on campus, or an influential poet read in a course. The Bennington community feeds itself with words again and again.

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