Glen Brook's second annual Monadnock Literary & Arts Festival gathered some of the most extraordinary group of people this past September to its hilltop campus to celebrate three days of the arts. Lectures on writing and storytelling were interspersed with live music performances, poetry, and, of course, snacks and meals from Glen Brook's farm and garden. Following are a few highlights from the weekend.
Verlyn Klinkenborg of The New York Times editorial board, and whose column "The Rural Life" celebrates the natural rhythms of the land, discussed the method for teaching great writing. "I make my students write short sentences," he said. "Otherwise, they tie themselves into a state of sustainable confusion. We all know bad writing when we see it. It sets off some inner disturbance, some quaver or instinct." Klinkenborg, a Gugenheim Award winner, teaches at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., as a visiting scholar and writer-in-residence. He lives full time on a farm in upstate New York.
Erica Wheeler, a singer-songwriter based in Northampton, Massachusetts, returned to the Festival for the second year to offer a concert and workshop on how "place" affects who we are. Her popular workshop, The Soulful Landscape, had everyone in tears.
Howard Mansfield, a New Hampshire writer, spoke about the changing of the meaning of time in our lives. His latest book, "Turn and Jump," is subtitled, "How Time & Place Fell Apart." In the 19th century and before, he said, we lived by an earthly and celestial clock--dictated by the rising and setting of the sun and moon, the lifting and falling of the tides, and the changing of the seasons. After the development of standardized time zones in the 1873 by the railroads, we became slaves to mechanized time, which he calls "the continuous," meaning regular and around-the-clock. "What we still long for is the seasonal, but we're stuck in the continuous," Mansfield said. "Throw out your clocks." The Wall Street Journal celebrated "Turn and Jump" in a glowing review this past summer.
Alexandra Zissu, also of The New York Times, spoke about healthy food. "I live on the same street in New York City where I grew up," Zissu said. "But I nonetheless know each person who is involved in raising the food for my family: the person who slaughters the animals we eat; each farmer at the Greenmarket; even the person who makes my make-up."
And veteran magazine editor Judson Hale, Sr., editor-in-chief of Yankee Magazine, spoke about the quirkiness of New England humor, cracking one joke after another that he recalled from living in New England and editing Yankee Magazine for over 50 years. His book Inside New England (Bauhan Publishing, 2010) was re-released last month.
Each presentation was held in one of Glen Brook's three large inside spaces. The Barn was decorated as an art gallery, featuring five prominent artists and one retrospective; the Rec Hall was a movie theater, and the dining room a concert hall. A large tent in the meadow served as the dining area.