Only whoops and ear-splitting hollers drowned out the thundering applause that met poets, authors and screenplay writers last Friday, June 26 at Phelan Hall at the University of San Francisco. These writers took part in a week-long summer program of intensive workshops, bringing with them personal experiences from respective corners of the country–-California, New York and, most importantly, Berkeley.

Voices of Nations Arts Foundations (VONA), a nurturing space created for published and unpublished “hardcore” writers, hosted this program. All writers fell under one of four structured groups: memoir, poetry, fiction and political content. Cal third-year Binly Phounsiri and fourth-year Jude Dizon were among the small handful of promising poets who were hand-selected from a nationwide pool of applicants to take part in this opportunity.

Friday night served as a showcase exhibition of sorts. By the time we arrived at the cramped, cozy lounge venue that evening, we were forced to cop a comfy squat halfway between the door and the marvelous hors d’oeuvres buffet. Word-artists read their workshopped pieces aloud in a classic, show-and-tell fashion to absorbed audience members. Writers shared with us anything from funny commentary and tall tales to painful memories and life lessons.

One petite mother from Hawaii brought the entire room to tears with her memoir about her daughter who recently passed while serving our country. A teenaged girl had her mother accompany her in reading an original screenplay about the trials of a young girl’s coming out. A personal favorite of the night, though, came from one middle-aged man’s simple conjecture that one who “finds joy in waiting for the toast to pop up will never be sad”.

We laughed, we cried, we grabbed our hearts when we felt we could take no more. Talent resonated throughout the room that evening–the fine-tuning guided by faculty and peers really helped to put these pieces over the top.

We certainly hope to hear more from VONA and perhaps even the rising stars whose paths we crossed that night. Until then, we’ll continue to search Berkeley and San Francisco for nights of free expression, free entertainment and of course, free food.

Image Source: katmere under Creative Commons
The Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation [Website]

Robin said:
Jul 1, 2008 at 9:42 pm

This is a good post. What i think was the most amazing about the performers’ effects on the audience, though, is that they were drawn out in a mere one or two minutes. That’s hardcore.

Mel said:
Jul 3, 2008 at 4:05 pm

passed??! PASSED??!!!

Stop this twisting of the English language. Stomp out all meaningless euphemisms! At the very very LEAST, say “passed on” so people know what you’re talking about. (Passed? What? the bar? Her finals?) Better yet, use the word you mean: DIED.