FEAST OF WORDS: cassie j. sneider turns the page at somarts

[ Tues May 15 12 ]

Unable to resist the promise of food, drink, art and a little Fine Fine Music, I landed at Feast of Words, a monthly reading series-freewriting-potluck soiree (now on hiatus for the summer), at the SOMArts gallery. The evening was a delight for the brain and the tummy, featuring literary guest Cassie J. Sneider and culinary guest Kuukua Yomekpe with SOMArts’ Lex Leifheit and Jess Young hosting. Yomekpe’s fiery main entrée keyed up the crowd: vegan spinach stew + habanero = that good kind of fire. In video #1 above, listen to her take on traditional Ghanaian kontomire, restyled to bring out the best of the Bay Area’s bounty. Yomekpe’s excellent dishes and a whole mess of guest-brought crocks and platters offering savories and sweets (I brought a sour cream chocolate bundt cake) drew lines for seconds, filled our stomachs and readied our ears for an evening of words.

For the night’s ‘back to the future’ theme, literary guest Cassie J. Sneider did what she does best and broke out her writing rearview mirror for a kind of big box bookstore ethnography neatly compacted into short story form. It’s always enjoyable to watch Sneider drop into character during a reading. For “Turn the Page” she fluidly morphed from a whiny, outer-borough beatnik Brahmin into a sleepy, scratchy ex-boyfriend baritone to effectively communicate the comedic malaise that only scenes of latent epiphanies and semantics debated in the basement of a Barnes & Noble in Queens, New York can inspire. You can watch Sneider’s reading above in video #2.

Attentive listeners may observe that there are two spots where technical glitches caused recording failure. Unfortunately, because we’re live with a single-camera set-up, stuff can happen. Even with the accidental omissions Sneider’s conversational prose barely misses a beat, but please note the reading’s non-recorded text denoted in italics below (and heartfelt apologies to CJS for this glitch):

  • (at 6:55): “…freakazoids coming out in droves. This also caused many cell phone calls of complaint made by Dave to me from the public bathroom stall. “There’s a poetry event…”
  • (at 16:45): “ ‘POETRY POLICE!’ The back said: ‘I have been asked to read at many different venues and had my plays put on by community theatre groups, but never in all my years of writing have I been so insulted as when the angry young lady at the Queens Poetry Society meeting had the nerve to call me the Poetry Police when I made a friendly suggestion.’ Ned Diller: Copyright 2005. I looked up…

I acquired a copy of her book in order to report this problem, and I have to say it’s addictive reading. Fine Fine Music’s darkly comic world and disturbed inhabitants, steeped in a sort of til-death-pledge that doesn’t let you forget for a moment that the cute and quirky Sneider hails from Ronkonkoma, Long Island, make this book a must-read. David Sedaris endorsed it, too, and it would look great on any bookshelf and be an easy, breezy addition to any tiny pile of bathroom reading material!

Evan Karp gave props to Feast of Words just last month (read that here), and as a foodie and a fellow lit fiend I can only follow up with more love in anticipation for this series’ big return in the Fall. In the reorganizing, I hope that they don’t streamline out the audience participation aspect. Currently, a writing prompt, freewriting session and impromptu readings with raffle prizes gives the whole evening a momentous Bingo night appeal. In video #3, watch bold attendees read the results of Sneider’s writing prompt.

Feast of Words fosters that good kind of group mentality also known as collective creativity. Imagine that… for only $5 to $10, come one, come all, you can eat, drink, write, meet new peeps and be merry… inside a rotating art installation.

Check out Feast of Words archives and SOMArts programs at http://www.somarts.org/.

Evelyn Manangan-Price