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PorchLight Recommends: Anne Lamott at the Englert & the Mic Check Poetry Festival

Two weeks ago I started digging into the Anne Lamott oeuvre, and I'm finding myself so charmed by her mixture of cranky honesty, insight into daily living, and beautiful prose that I'm neglecting my plants, dog, husband and children -- you know, just all the living things.

I started to read her classic "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life" during my MFA years, and foolishly did not finish it. I think I was an incredible snob who thought I needed to read only books I didn't understand and couldn't relate to. Well, that was my loss.

Now I read her as a writer who can cut through the crap of MFA pretensions, yet also craft large compelling novels about death, and adolescence, and how to live life as an artist. "Operating Instructions," her book about her sons first year of life, is one I wish I'd had when I gave birth to a child in the crazy, decadent, fishbowl of humanity that is San Francisco (Lamott's son was born in the bay area too). My only consolation for not having her work earlier, and I suppose this is a good one, is that I get to talk to her on stage at the Englert on November 10th! I get to talk to her about early motherhood and San Francisco, and politics and childhood! She doesn't know it, but I am already her friend from afar. I hope you will go seek out her books, or re-read her books (because you probably already know of her greatness). Once you get her voice in your head you'll be hooked. And then, please, come join us in conversation. There will be time for questions from the audience!

The Mic Check Poetry festival is one of the best new developments in Iowa City's Literary World. With it, Lisa Roberts, founder of Iowa City Poetry, and Caleb Rainey of IC Speaks have filled a need for socially engaged, diverse, and immersive creative writing programming. They've deftly programmed a series of events in which participants can not only watch as spectators, but learn and interact with world renowned performers; and produce and perform their own spoken word pieces, if they so desire.

The festival starts with Writer's Workshop professor Tracy Morris at Prairie Lights discussing the state of spoken word in the academy ( a space where, in my experience, it has been quietly shunned). After this, head over to the James Theater, for an interdisciplinary melange of spoken word performers and live music.

On Saturday there are two incredible opportunities to take a workshop with the inestimable Patricia Smith for only 25$: one for teens, and one for adults. Patricia will teach these workshops before she takes the stage at the Englert alongside the electric Ebony Smith.

Finally, on Saturday join fellow festival goers at the Mic Check poetry slam, open to all participants. Roberts and Rainy write,

"This event is essential to Mic Check Poetry Fest as it speaks to the heart of spoken word: listening and sharing, call and response, acceptance and vulnerability."

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