Looking back: Two area writers seek perspective

06/05/2014 1:23 PM

06/05/2014 1:23 PM

Hindsight is on the agenda Friday night.

Area writers Phyllis Galley Westover and Judith Towse Roberts will anchor this month’s installment of the Riverfront Readings at the Writers Place.

Their theme for the evening: “Insights in the Rearview Mirror.”

That was the same title Westover gave to a sometimes harrowing essay she included in a 2012 nonfiction anthology, “At the End of Life: True Stories About How We Die.” In that piece, she detailed not only the challenges of caring for her elderly father during his final years — she once prevented him from drowning in a swimming pool — but also the plans she needed to make when contemplating her own demise.

On Friday, however, Westover will read “A Bough for Miss Bentley,” a short story she has not yet published. It’s all about looking back and the revelations that sometimes come with time.

“It’s looking back on an incident that the story’s narrator experienced when she was in junior high school,” Westover said recently, “with a teacher who was inexplicably cruel in what she said to the children and insights — much later — as to what may have precipitated this.”

What drives the story, she added, is her curiosity about “getting what is the story behind the story, and what is sometimes learned a week too late and maybe 25 weeks too late.”

Joining Westover will be poet Roberts. Her verse has appeared in literary magazines; one book, “Chrysanthemums I Once Thought Sweet,” was a finalist in the annual Thorpe Menn competition.

She also directs In Our Own Words, a writing program for area youths considered at-risk.

“I’m a little older, a child of the 1960s, and many of my poems are about looking back,” she said.

Roberts has long admired the quote often attributed to the recently departed Maya Angelou: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

The challenge, Roberts said, is recapturing feelings held or shared during times long past. “That is basically what my poetry is, about the feelings you had back then toward the world,” she said.

The reading starts at 8 p.m. at the Writers Place, 3607 Pennsylvania Ave.

To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to bburnes@kcstar.com.

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