At Food for Thought, writers play on

Thursday, November 22, 2012

What a reading by the Christian Writers Group sounds like: an evening of people sharing their inspirational poetry. What it is: a witty, literate evening of poems and short prose on a variety subjects.

"We are trying to broaden the stereotype," said Jody Stephenson, a CWG member.

Christian describes what most of the members are, not what they write about. For four years, they have been putting on literary evenings, called Food for Thought, that resemble a program of NPR. The latest, on Nov. 9, drew more than three dozen people to Caribe Restaurant for real food -- salad, smoked chicken, nachos -- and entertainment, all courtesy of the writers and Studio 62.

"The idea is to give people a night out and provide the writers with an audience for their work," said Ron Lutz who with Stephenson, owns Studio 62 where the group meets.

Rosalie Toler started the group eight years ago as a place for writers to get together and share their work. It morphed in the Christian Writers Group, but remains open to anyone who wants to write on any subject.

"We write about life," Lutz said. "Our faith may be revealed through our writings."

What was revealed at Food for Thought: humor. After everyone had gone through the buffet and was seated at tables, M.J. Sell read "Saturday at the Museum," a satirical-toned poem about watching overweight baby-boomers on bikes pass the Eureka Springs Historical Museum. Stephenson read "M-M-M-My Generation," about watching aging rockers perform at the closing of the 2012 Summer Olympics and wondering where 40 years of her life had gone. Richard Schue read a poem about dealing with the remnants of Kleenex he forgot to take out of his mother's pockets when he did her laundry. Schue also read "Metaphorological Weather-Tainment," in the style reminiscent of his weather forecasts on KESA radio:

"Staying out late with no if-and-but's or maybe's -- Tonight's Low blows in South to eat at Caribe staying warmly at 58 to wait for Saturday to come breezing into these Ozark Hills riding 15 to 20 miles-per-hour currents that fuss and cuss and bust abrupt with gusts to 25 while the afternoon sun squints nearly hot and almost as sunny as it gives off half a sky of shine rising a smiley face High near 72 and looking playfully to do something fun before Saturday night clouderifically stacks the decks against Sunday with a 9 to 1 bet everyone will get wet."

Lutz was emcee and also introduced the 'half-time' activity: a poetry writing challenge. First, the audience was asked to create a word pool by calling out 16 words -- claustrophobic, halitosis, pantomime and multiplicity were some of their choices. Then Schue and Toler had five minutes to create something intelligible using all 16 words, which could be used in any context. Schue did it in one long sentence while Toler composed a story, using some of words as characters' last names.

Some poems did strike a more serious tone. Ellen Foncannon Stephenson, Jody's sister, read a poem called "Timing," a reflection on holding a Civil War rifle. A composer, she also played several seasonal pieces on the keyboard from her new CD, "Winterwood."

"Sometimes I write with black dots," she said.

Another writer, June Westphal, sat in the audience while Schue read two of her Memory Moments, which have just been published in a book. Judy Singleton read "Dining Out," consisting of dialogue between two women, one responding with the same two words, and a terse poem written from the perspective of a woman who is pegging out her husband's clothes on a line before a storm, then watching them blow away.

Jody Stephenson did read a poem with a biblical theme, describing the cynical thoughts going through Phillip's mind when Jesus asked the disciples to feed the five thousand. Deborah Quigley Smith read "Every Opportunity to Believe."

The title of one of Toler's poem, "The Lord of the Dance and Other Moments," was a reference to the song. The poem was about experiencing those small, absurd moments in life that suddenly flare up and illuminate existence, like matches struck unexpectedly in the dark.

Food for thought.

The Eureka Springs Christian Writers Group meets Mondays at 7 p.m. at Studio 62, 335 W. Van Buren (just past the Bavarian Inn). Everyone welcome.

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