Richard McCann (http://www.richardmccann.net/) writes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. He is the author of Mother of Sorrows, a work of fiction, and Ghost Letters, a collection of poems, as well as other pieces published in collections and various magazines. McCann has received awards and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, The MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo. He lives in Washington, D.C., where he is a professor in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at American University. He is currently working on a memoir, The Resurrectionist, which explores the experience and meanings of illness and mortality through a narrative exploration of his experience as a liver transplant recipient.
English Department Communications Intern Evelyn Vaughn attended a reading McCann gave January 30th 2014 in the CSU Art Museum at the University Center for the Arts, and has the following to share:
Sitting at the Richard McCann reading, I wondered if showing up on this snowy night would be worth it. Really – even as an English major and a passionate student of English, I wondered if I should leave early. It was starting to snow, after all. I had dragged my statistics major roommate along for her car – she was certainly not enthused. And when we left that night, there would be a new three or four inches of the white stuff on her Ford Escape.
As Richard McCann was introduced, my roommate joked that McCann’s book of short stories was called Mother of Sorrows – “how uplifting.” As he began to read one of the stories from the book, even he remarked that this was the sort thing he would read to a depressed child. In “The Fairytale” McCann detailed his own mother, who, before her death, had said that a smoker’s cough would always remind him of her. It was to my utter surprise that the line that moved me the most that night would come from this story — “She told me I was her best friend. She said that I had the heart to understand her. She was forty-six. I was nine.”
It was amazing to me that in one night, in one room even, the mood could change from jokes about the reviews McCann received on Goodreads and the knit “Batman costume” behind the podium to a moment of remembrance shared between people. For McCann, remembrance of his mother. For others, maybe, remembrance of their own loved ones. For me, it was remembrance of how literature can bring people together. Even on a snowy night in the middle of winter in Colorado, passionate English students and faculty – even statistics students dragged along for the ride – showed up to hear one man read his work.
And later, it became clear it was not just simply his work to him. It was his heart. As his second story demonstrated, it was all of the things he felt that he could only express through writing. The story “The Resurrection” recounts his experience following a liver transplant he received. A story he wrote, he said, because he “felt this anger and desire to travel down to the places people said were unspeakable.”
As we listened to his self-named “survivor guilt” about his transplant in “The Resurrection,” my roommate and I no longer questioned our decision to show up to the UCA as Colorado dumped snow on Fort Collins. When it was all over, I looked to my right where she was sitting and found her just as rapt as the rest of us. Indeed, the reading series hosted by the English Department is not just place to go because your beginning creative writing class requires you to. It is a place to go to appreciate literature for what it really is – the human connection that transcends time, that allows us to express things that we never thought we could face, that moves us to tears or laughter – it is the embodiment of all that makes us human.
Sponsors of the Reading Series include the English Department and Creative Writing Program at Colorado State University, Organization of Graduate Student Writers through ASCSU, College of Liberal Arts, and the Armstrong Hotel. These events are also sponsored by a grant from the Lilla B. Morgan Memorial Fund, a premier supporter of arts and culture at CSU. Please help grow this fund with a gift at: http://president.colostate.edu/lillabmorgan/index.aspx.
All events are free and open to the public. For additional information call 970.491.6428 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.