Celebrating May Day with Literature

Mary Fouad | New University

Mary Fouad | New University

The English Department hosted a “May Day Literary Event” last Wednesday to celebrate the recently published works of two English Language Composition Lecturers, Lorene Delany Ullman and Peggy Hesketh.

Lecturer Andrew T. Tonkovich opened the event, saying that the gathering combined his two passions: art and activism.

“[On one of my] favorite radio programs on KPFK, Henry Walton always ends his labor justice show each week with the reminder that most often the answer to our problems is always the same — more solidarity,” Tonkovich said.

“Camouflage For The Neighborhood” is a collection of prose poems written by Lorene Delany-Ullman. The book is a meditation on life, in our region of permanent warfare. It presents her personal, historical and sociological answer to varieties of occupations.

One day, Delany-Ullman was walking through a parking lot near a theater and saw a little army man right next to a car tire. She picked it up, observed it and put it in her purse. A few weeks later, Delany-Ullman held up the same little green plastic army man. Somehow, the image became stuck into her mind and made her think of the ways in which war can pervade everyday life. This moment was the inspiration for her book.

“I have a family that’s very multigenerational in terms of war, [with individuals] from all the way from the Revolutionary War, and the fact that I worked for defense company for ten years,” she said. “So there are all these threats that I pull together essentially into this book. They are very anti-narrative, and the book is not chronological, and the book is a series of prose poems. It’s really in my feeling a well long poem.”

After Delany-Ullman finished reading excerpts from her novel and talking about her story, Peggy Hesketh then spoke about her new book, “Telling the Bees.” This story tells the tale of Albert Honig, a beekeeper who never married and lives his life in solitude. He is more familiar with bees than humans, except for one neighbor, Claire. When he finds her dead, he begins to examine his past with his neighbors, in particular Claire, and  uses that relationship to help uncover the truth of her death.

This book is on its way toward becoming one of the required readings on the theme of life in Orange County, California.

“If you grow up around here in Orange Country, you probably can recognize many of the places, especially in north Orange County,  or Anaheim particularly,” Hesketh said. “It was inspired by an incidence that took place about three years [ago]. But it is not the story of the incident so much as it was. It was a rumination that brought me thinking about neighborhood and people. And the interactions which families get in touch.”

Both Lorene Delany-Ullman and Peggy Hesketh are long-term teachers in the composition program. Their books reveal social and culturelism, in two different ways, about life in Orange County.

Peggy Hesketh has been teaching writing at UCI for 13 years. From her perspective, doing a lot of research is essential to writing creative novels. It is also a necessary process of rewriting the story. After Hesketh finished her novel, she went through four revisions.

When faced with writer’s block, Hesketh said she follows what Isaac Asimov, a science fiction writer, said in an article titled, “The Eureka Phenomena.”

“When you get that block, don’t just sit there and stay in front of your computer,” she said. “You’ve got to get out. Go do something creative.

“For instance, I like to go to the movie theater. I usually cook. You are still thinking about it, whether at front of your brain or not, but allow it to percolate a little bit. And you get stretched by something else creative because you will find, when you go back, what you might write.”