Matters of Life and Death, Salon, April 10
With Beth Alvarado and Karen Brennan
Wednesday, April 10, 5:30-7:30pm
Kore Press Institute, 325 W 2nd St, Rm 201 (at the top of the stairs), Tucson 85705, in the Dunbar Pavilion.
$5 donation at the door, no one turned away for lack of funds. It’s potluck! Bring an offering for the table if you are able.
Join us for a community conversation with writers Beth Alvarado and Karen Brennan to explore the moments of extremis, often when someone is dying or being born, when the veil between living and dying is at its thinnest. Tending to the body heightens our awareness of the spirit, of what is ineffable and ephemeral and yet, perhaps, most essential, and it opens us. Also, during illness, extreme pain, child birth, danger, compassion, despair, and even moments of dreaming—perhaps any moment when consciousness quits ordering reality and is open to other possibilities.
How do we talk to ourselves and others about these times in our lives—when we are most aware of the precariousness of life, when we can be open to this precariousness and when we cannot?
Alvarado says, “When you hold a newborn infant, the child is a mystery, already a complete being, separate from you, and this never ceases to astonish me. Or: when you are fully present in the moment when someone is dying and what has always been invisible—the spirit, the inner life, the self—suddenly vanishes. Is gone. This, too, astonishes. I have no particular religious background andI feel no need to contain or even delineate this mystery. I love the way it reverberates when it is not contained. And, of course, even though these are the most intensely private moments, the rest of your life and the world keep buzzing on around you—which can be a kind of comfort or a distraction or an annoyance. You still must eat, work, answer the phone, even clean the house, I suppose.”
How do we talk to ourselves and others about these times in our lives—when we are most aware of the precariousness of life, when we can be open to this precariousness and when we cannot! Also, how is acknowledging precariousness a kind of political or, in the very least, philosophical stance? It seems to me: when we realize we are not in control, what is left to comfort us, but compassion?
Books by the writers will be available for purchase and signing!
Beth Alvarado is the author of four books: Anxious Attachments (essays), Anthropologies: A Family Memoir, and Not a Matter of Love (stories). Jillian in the Borderlands: a cycle of rather dark tales will be published by Black Lawrence Press in October 2020. She lived in Tucson for most of her life. She married her late husband, Fernando, when she was nineteen and has been a part of his large extended family since then. Much of her writing is about intensely personal moments—from caring for preemies to tending to the dying—but also about the social life that goes on around the edges of those moments and the interior life that expands because of them.
Karen Brennan Ph.D. is the author of seven books of varying genres including poetry collections Here on Earth (1989) and The Real Enough World (2006), both from Wesleyan University Press; little dark (2014) Four Way Books; AWP Award-winning short fiction Wild Desire (1990), U Mass Press; The Garden in Which I Walk (2005), Fiction Collective 2; a memoir, Being with Rachel (2001) Norton, and new stories, Monsters, from Four Way Books (2016). Her fiction, poetry and nonfiction has appeared in anthologies from Norton, Penguin, Graywolf, Spuytin Duyvil, Michigan and Georgia, among others. A National Endowment of the Arts recipient, she is Professor Emerita at the University of Utah and teaches at the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.