Thursday, August 23, 2012

Of Breath and Rhythm

Please welcome our guest today, Steve Mitchell. Steve has been writing seriously for about twelve years. His fiction and poetry has been published in Contrary, Peregrine, The Adirondack Review, The North Carolina Literary Review, and Flash Fiction Magazine, among others.

His plays have been performed in theatres along the East Coast. He's directed additional theatre by Sam Shepard, Christopher Durang and Peter Brook among others, and toured with a multi-voice poetry group performing original work (and the occasional Gladys Knight and the Pips cover). He's directed a number of short films and taken part in two 48 Hour Film Projects as writer and actor. He's most proud of his performance as 'Thug 1' in Gone to Ground.

As a writer, he's intrigued with the places where true memory becomes our mythology and the places where these mythologies wrestle with our world. He's excited by moments of awareness in which something actually changes within us. And, he loves the way we learn about strangers in conversation: in snippets and bits and odd elocutions, in half-formed images and conjecture.

Of Breath and Rhythm

I'm not particularly religious, but I've always been intrigued by old recordings of the sermons of evangelical preachers. The best are incredibly nuanced and inherently dramatic. They have an aspect of music, as all great public speaking does. And when the preachers truly get going, their breathing becomes audible, the interlacing of inhalation and exhalation apparent. In fact, they bring great attention to it.

I've always thought of this as an effort to ease the congregation into a pattern of respiration, to draw the group into a unified breath. In those moments, the congregation could become one body, sharing this singular breath in the same way they might when they sing together.

I think the same gesture is there in a story. The best writing has a unique rhythm which insinuates itself in the reading. It's within this rhythm, this breath, that we come together as readers, and as writers.

Within the story, each reads in their own way. I can imagine it as a sort of scattered chorus, dotting the globe, one person here, another there, each adding their voice. And if we could listen in just the right way, we might hear those voices coming together as one.

The story becomes a different thing then, as it is articulated by each reader, each claiming it as their own, imagining details left out by the author, constructing deeper pasts and new futures for the characters. The story becomes more full and open as it is read.

The preacher shares his inhalation. Each congregant enters as they will. The writer shares his work. Hoping to touch some sense of beauty or wonder, he offers a pattern of words as personal as breath.

As readers, we give ourselves to this process, partners in a dance or stars of the same constellation, building something between us. The writer writes.

It's the reader who completes the sentence.

About his book, The Naming of Ghosts, Frances Badgett with Contrary Magazine says, "Steve Mitchell's lyrical prose and beautifully crafted stories haunt the reader long after the final pages. His characters are so full and fascinating, and the urgency of heir need to connect is so strong. Poignant, inspiring, and compelling, The Naming of Ghosts is the finest collection of stories out there."
Awards Won:
Three of his short stories were nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2010
He was a finalist in the 2009 Fulton Prize for Short Fiction
Finalist in the 2010 Ron Rash Award for Short Fiction