Our Visions, Our Voices in Arizona Review
Our group poetry project was followed by Lisa Van Orman Hadley’s essay about her father and Reuben sandwiches. We watch as their relationship grows from the basics of sandwich assembly to the two creating their own Thousand Island dressing with special secret ingredients. The piece is particularly wonderful because she was able to turn to her junior high memories of making Reuben sandwiches with her dad when years later, she realized that he was no longer the same person and no longer shared her important memories of their times together.
Canadian and RLDS member, Susan Scott connected her story about a town’s epidemic with tainted water to the importance of water in our Arizona deserts. The piece she read was taken from a collection that took her years to write. We learned about a small town that was betrayed by the people who kept its water supply clean. When half the town became ill and seven people died, the tragedy was so immense it altered the future of the community. Focusing on the issue of trust, Susan was able to connect us, as her audience, to our own lives where losing, gaining, and keeping trust are crucial to our successfully functioning in our communities.
Danielle Dubrasky offered several expressive poetry readings. Her poem about being a child in her home church building growing up was poignant and evocative—one could almost smell the mustiness of the basement Primary room.
Judy Curtis also did some fabulous poetry readings. Her poem, “Dessert,” talks about the self-sacrifice and often unappreciated offerings we, as women, make for our families. She ended with a longer poem about Aunt Sarah, a fictional polygamous wife’s life post-Manifesto. So many of us can’t wait until she gets back to Phoenix so that we can get our own copies. How often do we think about the lives of those women who weren’t able to stay married to their husbands after the Church stopped polygamy?
Joanna Brooks came back with a piece about a blue Econoline van, which served as a symbol of life. The stories that she wove together kept circling back to the van, driven by older women who control the lives of girls, approaching womanhood. The themes of childbirth, wife-work, and the eternal role of women were juxtaposed with amusing and almost-unbelievable tales of rides in the blue Econoline van. Most insightful for several of us was the realization that women’s traditional roles here were not reinforced by the patriarchy, but enforced by the matriarchy.
We were delighted with Holly Welker’s memoir, blowing many of us away with its fast pace and depth of content. Her ability to weave the themes of diamonds, swine, and a hand print on her chest throughout a piece that seemed to be as smooth and jumbled as her life was so impressive and reminded some of us of our favorite contributors to “This American Life.”
In Joanna’s final contribution to the evening, she turned our thoughts again to the connections we feel with our grandmothers, and by extension, with all women. She read “Invocation/Benediction,” inspired by a grandmother’s patchwork quilt, with phrases evocative of feminine connection, including:
“Where there is no pattern, God, give me courage to organize a fearsome beauty…
“Give me an incandescent all-night garage with a quorum of thimble-thumbed
grandmothers sitting on borrowed folding chairs.
“We will gather all the lost scraps and stitch them together:
“A quilt big enough to warm all our generations.”
As Exponent women, we thoroughly enjoy and admired Joanna and Holly’s undertaking to warm all generations of all Mormon women.
If you’re lucky enough to live near Utah Valley University or University of Utah, you simply must make it a point to attend one of these last two stops on the tour.
Organizers Joanna Brooks and Holly Welker, both accomplished writers who have written beautifully, insightfully, and creatively of their experiences as Mormon women and feminists, brought the Mormon Women Writers’ Literary Tour, “Our Visions, Our Voices,” to Arizona State University on Tuesday, March 23, 2010.