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2005 Writers Forum
John Mifsud, 2005 Curator

John Mifsud was born in Sliema on the Mediterranean Island of Malta. He is published in several magazines and three anthologies including, "New Men, New Minds: Breaking Male Tradition" by Crossing Press and "Boyhood: Growing Up Male - A Multicultural Anthology" by the University of Wisconsin Press. John also produced, directed and scripted "Speaking for Ourselves: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Youth," a national award-winning PBS documentary highlighting the self-determination of sexual minority youth, their challenges and courage. Recently, John published a manuscript about how his family survived Nazi aggression during World War II and their subsequent emigration to Canada. His recollection of family stories is entitled "All Clear." John Mifsud photo
photo credit:
dean wong
Introduction to the 2005 Jack Straw Writers Anthology (Vol.9)

The Jack Straw Writers Program helps bridge the gap between a quiet book on a shelf and an urgent message demanding witness. The unexpected becomes manifest when ink jumps off a page to transform in the ears of an audience. This phenomenon is critical for most writers at various stages of their careers. Although reading is often a silent activity, writing is not. My heartfelt thanks go to the Jack Straw staff who graciously provide both emerging and established writers this rare opportunity to travel from print to performance. Public readings are not uncommon but broadcasting from a popular NPR station inevitably broadens reach and compounds impact. Hopefully, our results will inspire listeners as much as our process has moved me. It has been a pleasure to support the celebrated talents herein who continue to shape their identity through beauty and art.

Curating this year’s program has been a genuine honor because the twelve writers featured in this book traverse a rich diversity in form as well as subject matter. Good writing stands alone, an assured gatekeeper inviting entry into worlds unfamiliar. Collectively, our joyful discovery was that the individual adventures in this book cover more ground when they arrive side by side.

This insight describes Steve Hernandez-Effingham’s aim to imagine New Orleans race riots in 1900 underscored by Jean Auger’s life of jazz. Likewise, Laurel Ann White’s theatrical ambition, River Bed, successfully unearths the names and faces of unknown Green River victims while mainstream media focuses on their murderer. Fredda Jaffe also demonstrates skillful means in her villanelle, Francoise Gilot Muses, only to paint the wonder of nature with craft in Your Next Poem. Among other landings, Carlos Martinez tunnels through conflicting poetic forms in his study, Between the formal and the open. Finally, he carries us up tenement steps with an urban lullaby entitled, When it snowed in Spanish Harlem.

This year’s writers are characterized by a distinct courage. In her poignant poems, The Exile Reconsiders and Mohamud at the Mosque, Susan Rich pays tribute to Somali-Americans after 9/11. Bharti Kirchner uncovers the painful mystery of domestic violence in her upcoming novel, Best of Friends. Jeanne Morel’s extended stay in post-war Cambodia provides a penetrating sensitivity that changes both writer and reader in Sestina-Like Musings, while the vibrant Anna Balint flies us to London for The Lady Who Wore Trousers. There, we witness tearful children, separated from their parents, taking trains to safety before World War II. Presently, Cune Press will publish the determination and singular perspective that merges in Maliha Masood’s, In the Middle of the East: a Muslim-American Woman’s Odyssey from Cairo to Istanbul.

I am also grateful for the writers who escort us back home to our lush Pacific Northwest rife with pastoral vistas and agitating contradictions. Jaime Curl charters ferries from all night diners to nameless beaches. In his poems, We came by it honestly and The passing days, Jaime scans our overcast horizon with offerings of love and revelation. In Brenda Givens’ daring poem, Dust Storm, she documents racial profiling that killed a man in Jasper. She expertly brings us home to Medina with Welcome to the Neighborhood, only to see the south is sadly not that far away. In the Seattle suburb of Newcastle, Nhien Nguyen marries first and second generation Vietnamese immigrants in Transitions. Through their dialogue, Nhien crosses both cultures and continents with ease.

To quickly circle the globe, read this book. On the final page you will find what we always knew to be true. We really are one. Thanks to Jack Straw, we can hold this simple truth with greater ease and share it with anyone willing to listen.

John Mifsud, Curator
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