Friday, September 28, 2012
Full disclosure: I have a hat in this ring. A CD, Live At The Jive, featuring me, Chuck Joy, poet, with my musical partner Kurt Sahlmann, as Enhanced Poetry, available from CDBaby.com, also Amazon.
Live At The Jive is our entry to the poetry-and-music-at-the-same-time rodeo, recorded live at a downtown coffee house on the main street for a small northern city on a snowy Saturday afternoon in December. Live At The Jive has a Christmas vibe due to its recording in the holiday season, see Tracks 9, 10, and 11. As I like to say, Enhanced Poetry is nothing if not seasonally appropriate. Live At The Jive makes a fine gift. Another season for which Enhanced Poetry is appropriate is football season, current then and current now, celebrated on a track called Hail Mary, presenting a quarterback under duress.
Poetry-and-music-at-the-same-time is an interesting art form. Every poet maybe wants to sing but here the poet doesn’t sing, he recites in the wry dramatic style I prefer, attentive to the shape of the text, heavy with silences. Those silences of mine are what attract me to this conjoint genre, the music fills the spaces between the lines since the audience can’t hear the music playing in my head. It’s fun, especially with Kurt, an adept keyboardist and tough guy, inspired with his own vision. Our collaboration does indeed at times feel like bull-riding. Other times it’s like crying, a ballad, sadder than blues, Track 2, and there is blues too. Track 3 presents lines written in the form of a traditional blues lyric. Is that poetry? You be the judge. And there’s humor, in the lines but also in the interaction between the two of us, also the crowd. Let’s hear it for that crying baby.
The Jive is gone now. That joint has ascended to the neighborhood of heaven where all our favorite venues go when they die. Enhanced Poetry will never again play there, no one will. Enhanced Poetry has played elsewhere: Bobby’s Place, a small bar in the old Italian village, inspiration for Track 13, Frank Sinatra; Poets’ Hall, a gallery performance space dedicated to poetry on the East Side, suggestive for Track 4, Kids. We’ve played Snoetry, the multistate poetry festival last held in Elyria, Ohio, and at Poetry In The Park, the summer festival of poetry in Erie, Pennsylvania’s Frontier Park. I’m Here To Talk, that’s the opening number.
I’m here to share the stage as well. Share the wealth! A full Enhanced Poetry show includes an open reading segment, smoothly integrated into the agenda through the poem The Saxophone Of Me, here Track 7. Live At The Jive is a fine example of this method, with two guest poets featured herein, Monica Igras and Darryl M. Brown. They’re fun.
Enhanced Poetry explores many of the limits of the poetry-and-music spectrum, both of us together yes, lots of that, but also each of us alone, just poetry, me, and just music, Kurt, instrumental and also vocal. I say, I’m all poetry and Kurt’s mostly music, meaning he’s a poet too. Live At The Jive has 18 tracks, under a cover featuring fine art photography shot through the glass front wall of the store. The poems all exist, some are published, but their settings to music on Live At The Jive are improvised, we don’t practice, which gives our effort a jazzy feel and on that snowy Saturday afternoon preserved here, we got lucky.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
The star field following the opening credits of The Very Eye of Night is either twinning and rejoining, or overlapping, overtaking itself. The sequence lasts just under a minute and a half and is a fucking endurance trial. What about people or people-things? Is this movie made for stars to watch or people? The entire movie is only fifteen minutes and after titles and a brief animation of the tao being consumed by the dark portion we have stars and space doubling up and nearly coming together again for a minute and twenty-four seconds? Wait. Isn’t the tao, that circle of two perfectly twinned shapes, being lapped and overtaken by one of its two parts the same as the star fields? While waiting for something human to happen, while enduring that stillness in motion, that distant and inhuman white and black, the audience has time to actually think a thought, even if that thought is only a desperate attempt to make meaning, to make happening; to have something to resonate with us.
And, we are rewarded with things like people, shaped as people, but sometimes unflexing but sliding across space, some dancing formulaically over a night sky. All in negative. All as steady and as jerky as the two star fields that seemed to be aligning, but cuing us to no more purpose than those lights, that deep black space that might be only as deep as a sheet of paper. As deep as the tops of mountains, which, after all, ought to be pretty deep as far as they lay below the stars, beneath these people-like things or things like people.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Over 800 Events Planned in 115 Countries for100 Thousand Poets for Change
Santa Rosa, Calif. (September 24, 2012) – September 29, 2012 marks the second annual global event for 100 Thousand Poets for Change, a grassroots organization that brings communities together to call for environmental, social, and political change within the framework of peace and sustainability. An event that began primarily with poet organizers, 100 Thousand Poets for Change has grown into an interdisciplinary coalition with year round events which includes musicians, dancers, mimes, painters and photographers from around the world.
Local issues are still key to this massive global event as communities around the world raise their voices on issues such as homelessness, global warming, education, racism and censorship, through concerts, readings, lectures, workshops, flash mobs, theater performances and other actions.
But these locally focused events have taken on a more continuous and expansive form through the new disciplines represented this year. For example, photographers are making a long-term project out of the event; they will document the involvement of their communities and explore connections with the broader global issues to turn into future exhibits. More and more organizers and participants of the one day, annual event are making plans to continue their actions after September 29. Many have formed groups in their cities that will continue to work year-round towards the goals their community seeks.
“Peace and sustainability are major concerns worldwide, and the guiding principles for this global event,” said Michael Rothenberg, Co-Founder of 100 Thousand Poets for Change. “We are in a world where it isn't just one issue that needs to be addressed. A common ground is built through this global compilation of local stories, which is how we create a true narrative for discourse to inform the future.”
More than 200 hundred bands will be performing around the world, from Los Angeles, New Orleans and Detroit to Serbia, Nigeria and Italy. The musicians involved in this movement are once again using their songs and performances to try to communicate their concerns to the world. As Ross Altman, singer-songwriter, activist and educator, reminds us: “from Plato, who banned [musicians] from the Republic, to Putin, who had Russian punk band members of Pussy Riot arrested, charged, tried, convicted and sentenced to two years in prison for a song prayer, musicians throughout history have been regarded as a danger and threat to change the social order.”
In addition to the hundreds of musicians expressing themselves through song, numerous Mimes for Change events in Egypt, Turkey and Uruguay will take place in addition to the day long poetry festivals in Los Angeles, Guatemala City, Pune, India, La Plata, Argentina and Genoa, Italy; thousands of musicians, poets and artists are participating around the world, totaling nearly 800 events globally, including:
• 25 different events in the San Francisco Bay Area, the birthplace of 100 Thousand Poets for Change, including poetry readings by Beat Legend Michael McClure, former US Poet Laureate Robert Hass and other major poets at the famed Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival
• In New Orleans, 15 live bands will perform to raise funds for the APEX Youth Center and Homegrown Harvest Music and Arts Festival
• In Hollywood, Florida, Global Vibes will host an event called, “War Destroys Children’s Lives” at two venues and feature over 15 “Bands for Change”
• Peace On Streets, R.O.A.D., Tasker Elite and SHARP will host performance artists, poets, musicians, hip hop artists and various youth and parent groups who will perform and lead workshops throughout Philadelphia to bring awareness to the ongoing problem of street violence in their city
• Wordstock, a 3-day festival at the Bamboo Arts and Celebration Center in De Leon Springs, FL will include poetry slams, concerts, and an art exhibition focusing on images of war and peace
• The Occupy Wall Street Poetry group kicks off a weekend of events in New York City with a poetry reading at the famous St. Mark’s Poetry Project
• In Jamaica, a week long Street Dub Vibe series called “Tell the Children the Truth” will include concerts, spoken word performances, art exhibits, lectures and workshops to bring attention to the damaging culture of secrecy and denial surrounding the abuse, poverty and illiteracy impacting the nation’s children and destroying their future.
• Poetry and peace gatherings are planned in the strife-torn cities of Kabul and
• In Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt, poets, musicians and mime artists, in response to violence in the world and the major changes taking place in the Arab World, will perform in public spaces and theaters and explore new ways to communicate their concerns, and their roles as artists, in influencing the future of their country
• In Volos, Greece, there will be 5 days of poetry and music events, including an
exhibition of photography looking at the new phenomenon of homelessness in Greece
• An event in Blackpool, England will celebrate activist poets and writers of past
generations through a special performance of Bullets and Daffodils, a play about the life of peace poet Wilfred Owen
Organizers and participants are hoping through their actions and events to seize and redirect the political and social dialogue of the day and turn the narrative of civilization towards peace and sustainability. Those that want to get involved can visit www.100tpc.org to find an event near them or sign up to organize one in their area.
About 100 Thousand Poets for Change
100 Thousand Poets for Change began in Sonoma County, Calif. The official
Headquarters’ Event will take place at the Arlene Francis Center in downtown Santa Rosa and will feature poetry readings, group meditations, workshops, and music and dance of various styles including hip hop, flamenco, African drums, reggae, salsa, folk and more. The HQ event will also live-stream other 100 Thousand Poets for Change events worldwide. This 3-day event is sponsored by the Peace & Justice Center of Sonoma County and the Sonoma County Arts Council.
Immediately following September 29th, all documentation on the 100TPC.org website, which will include specific event pages with photos, video and other documentation compiled by each city coordinator, will be preserved by Stanford University in California. Stanford recognized 100 Thousand Poets for Change in 2011 as an historical event, the largest poetry reading in history. They will continue to archive the complete contents of 100TPC.org, as part of their digital archiving program LOCKSS.
Co-Founder Michael Rothenberg (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a widely known poet, editor of the online literary magazine Bigbridge.org and an environmental activist based in Northern California. Terri Carrion is a poet, translator, photographer, and editor and visual designer for BigBridge.org.
100 Thousand Poets for Change
P.O. Box 870
Guerneville, Ca 95446
Monday, September 24, 2012
Hell on Heels
Poems by Alicia Young
Lady Lazarus Press
Middle Aged Tavern Poem, Jack
The fucking sob story
We’re too old to be discontented
Realize your suffering
Is no greater
Than any other broken heart’s
Is your joy
Ponder the pivotal point
We were once flagellate
In the same
The pork is good here
Have a manhattan
Okay, as far as I can remember, this is the first book that I have reviewed from Lady Lazarus press, and it is also a book that I most looked forwards to reviewing. Hell on Heels: Poems by Alicia Young came as a real surprise. I fucking love this book. How do I explain it: its like when one those of really cool things enter your life; you know, you like you read an article about someone finding an original Warhol at a garage sale. Then you go outside, pop into a used bookstore, and just happen to find a signed copy of poems by Patti Smith for two dollars. Hell on Heels: Poems by Alicia Young is that kind of book. The poems that inhabit its pages will wrap around you like the dance of the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. These poems are alive. They are pumping like the blood pumps to your heart. Trust me: Alicia Young knows when she’s got you in her sights and she’s ready for the kill. I cannot say it any better than that, or give these poems higher praise. What I can do is tell you that the cover art is brilliant, the poems are alive and filled with passion. So whatever you have to fucking do, make sure that a copy of Hell on Heels ends up in your library. This is just one damn fine collection of poetry.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
The war on women has been going on for quite awhile, with new battles at the forefront of each generation, it seems. The arts have also been participatory in the war, with certain victories from previous generations buried in public amnesia (The Dinner Party, for example). Yet within previous generations there lies useful wisdom. Coming up now on the centennial of its publication, DH Lawrence’s The Lost Girl has much to offer those for whom thought is not anathema.
Although Lawrence’s reputation is smeared with the superficial slur of being all smut, though actually of The Lost Girl is quite the contrary. Lawrence’s text concerns itself with the compassionate rendering of the female protagonist, Alvina Houghton, with the bulk of the novel’s attention going to seven years of Alvina’s life as she experiences what it is to be age thirty. Although Lawrence’s England of a hundred years ago is quite of the time with its generous awareness of such prosaic concerns as gas-lamps, the expectation of women to ally themselves in a domestic partnership of some sort has not really changed. Lawrence’s text has numerous examples of “old-maids” as secondary characters, and their fate of being “on a shelf” denotes a social position as being expendable.
Lawrence has too true an eye to lump these unmarried women into one character type, and while their social position is symbolic, each character has an individuality that nonetheless makes her recognizable. Additionally, each of these women serves to paint Alvina in deeper chiaroscuro; for example, toward the last third of the novel, Effie Tuke goes into labor and her speeches state Lawrence’s thesis of the paradox that confounds modern women then and now:
“ ‘ Oh, but so many things happen outside one’s imagination. That’s where your body has you. I can’t imagine that I’m going to have a child ---[…] Oh, but there isn’t one bit of me wants it, not one bit. My flesh doesn’t want it. And my mind doesn’t—yet there it is![…] You don’t understand! I want to be myself. And I’m not myself. I’m just torn to pieces by Forces. It’s horrible---[…] But I hate life. It’s nothing but a mass of forces. I am intelligent. Life isn’t intelligent. Look at it this moment. Do you call this intelligent? Oh—Oh! It’s horrible! Oh --! ( 287-297)”
Ironically, by this time in the novel and in her life, Alvina has made friendships “with the few women who formed the toney intellectual elite of this northern town” (287), which Lawrence calls:
“that curious female freemasonry which can form a law unto itself even among most conventional women. They talked as they would never talk before men, or before feminine outsiders. They threw aside the whole vestment of convention. They discussed plainly the things they thought about—even the most secret—and they were quite calm about the things they did—even the most impossible” (287).
Lawrence posits here an alternative to the dire circumstances facing unallied and unmarried women in the possibility of community, or a sub-society created of like-mindedness. Although Lawrence does not openly acknowledge the atavistic archetype of a female collective, the communication between the female characters in the novel functions as the transmission of this wisdom.
Lawrence’s protagonist, Alvina, encounters a number of men, most of whom are given social sanction; nonetheless, though Alvina’s eyes we see these men as symbolic characters, each recognizable to the modern eye, and each justifiably repellant. If Lawrence’s work is to suffer further castigation, it ought to be for these portraits, for the male characters have their camouflage removed and they exist not only as physical beings, but as individually offensive people. Alvina’s suitors are paraded through the novel, each a self-satisfied rooster, with the awful climax assuming the form of Dr Mitchell who:
“had a large practice among the poor, and was an energetic man […]fifty-four years old, tall, largely-built […] he laughed and talked rather mouthingly […]he was rather mouthy and overbearing”(264), but who has a solid social status , a large house, and an attitude of “ imperious condescension”(269).
Alvina eventually cannot hide her feelings of revulsion, and in the form of another female character passes down the observation “You never know what men will do till you’ve known them. And then you need be surprised at nothing, nothing […]”(282). Albeit the quality of this testimony positing men as erratic, unstable personalities, the joke is in the turn-about, for the long-held misogynist cliché of women as reliable only in their temperamental behavior.
Lawrence’s text deserves further attention. In his canon, it is the honesty and physicality of men that is most worthy of female alliance, not their social trappings; a lesson well worth modern thought, especially in a culture of global consumerism. Lawrence’s women are drawn with compassion, even those he unabashedly finds socially and intellectually repugnant—a feat not seen often enough any where. Lawrence arms his women with their own power, and this needed lesson is worth remembering.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Kurt Elling steps from the small and growing group of musical talents I’ve learned by listening to Erie’s Jazz Flight. Erie Pennsylvania USA, an economical low-traffic settlement on the northern border, home to beautiful beaches, a Poet Laureate, and Jazz Flight. Jazz Flight, a weeknightly jazz and world music radio show on WQLN-FM 91.3, hosted by Mercyhurst University’s Rob Hoff. Kurt Elling is a vocalist.
The voice is a difficult instrument. You get what you got. Kurt’s voice is alright, his tone might dip but he’s game for arpeggios. It’s what he does with it, that voice. Kurt Elling is an innovator, even while acknowledging his forbears such that Elling does whole shows themed to Frank Sinatra. But Kurt Elling comes closer to the border of poet than most vocalists. Sometimes he reads poetry, or at least graceful prose, usually over jazz music, occasionally blues, a variety of tempos. On The Gate he reads Duke Ellington.
Kurt Elling comes critically acclaimed. Where have I been? I heard him live on a big stage, one of the biggest and the best in Erie. For twenty bucks. Like I said Erie, economical. I bought this disk from the man’s two hands, my copy of The Gate. It’s signed. What’s wrong with us? A guy like this, such a musical artist, should not be selling his own disks. Kurt Elling owned that whole house. His vocalizing delighted a mixed audience, from swing traditionalists to gals who rock, bending the sound, his instrument, through the words and around them. None of us will ever be the same. We should help make Kurt Elling less accessible!
I also bought a disk from Elling’s piano player Laurence Hobgood when he let slip he’d recorded the disk with Robert Pinsky. Hobgood went out to the car or somewhere to fetch me that disk and that disk is really well-done. The Gate features almost all covers, Kurt Elling a song stylist, a song stylist who makes good choices, songs you’re excited to hear, like Blue In Green, a trumpet tune, and Golden Lady, from Stevie Wonder. Joe Jackson’s Steppin’ Out. The album opens with Matte Kudasai, a 1981 release from King Crimson. Norwegian Wood, my own drive to recite the lyric to Strawberry Fields Forever on the poetry stage clearly influenced by listening to The Gate.
The relationship between music and poetry, their crazy love, so wonderful and subtle. Lately I’ve been thinking, poetry is vocals. Kurt Elling is a song stylist. The Gate is heavy with cool renditions. I have other of Kurt’s LP works. His Dedicated To You brings the music of Coltrane and Hartman. Live In Chicago includes My Foolish Heart but also more fun poetry, and guest musicians, recorded at the Green Mill, also iconic for poetry, baby. The Gate is a new release, 2011. Approach this album as a big deal, like you have a sixty dollar ticket, maybe two of ‘em. Take a nice seat and get ready to feel the beat.
Monday, September 17, 2012
“‘Vengeance is mine,’ sayeth the Lord, but I’ll help.” – Sarah Jane Butler
Sister Sarah Jane Butler is on a mission of purification. A mission from her own personal God to rid the world of pleasurable sex, evil men, and to get her own television preaching show, and to do this, she will freeload, steal, cajole, pick up men for sex, and stab them with knives because they are evil. She’s sort of like Robert Mitchum’s character in Night of the Hunter, if Night of the Hunter was a roughie sex picture. The movie is an imperfect blend of John Waters and Doris Wishman, where the very nature of the movie prevents much of the nudity (of which there is plenty) and simulated sex from being more than briefly attractive. But, more than the hardcore nudity, the fact several couples blush and stretch and smile during sex makes the difference here, separating Evil Come, Evil Go from the typical slasher. While some of the sexual encounters do feature cocky, rotten people, most of them are happy people trying to have happy sex.
Imagine watching Doris Wishman’s Night of the Hunter, then, or a version of Deep Red that has no functional moral barometer. Is this a porno incompetently rendered a turn off by brutal murder and hilarious but painful satire? Are the fake sex and displayed genitals all a lure so horny punters will hear the preached word of Sister Sarah’s weird God? Horror movie or comedy? It’s shot and edited as if a documentary, and the delivery (sometimes overdubbed) sounds so staged, but it’s the kind of staged you often get by pointing a camera and interviewing someone or listening in as a street preacher rails. For all that kitchen sink Realism, there is a troubadour who shows up periodically to sing us through a moment and balladize Sarah Jane’s great work.
As with a Wishman picture, you want to watch this with an audience, more so because of its potentially embarrassing material. It’s an audience participation movie; a movie shaped each time by its audience. I’ve seen it twice with audiences and was fascinated by who closed their eyes for the (just offscreen) stabbings and who avoided the screen when there was a penis in prime focus. I’ve averted my eyes knowing Sister Sarah’s acolyte is about to betray her girlfriend, who is totally confident she has saved her beloved from the insane Sarah. This is a movie designed for reactions; it matters little if it gets the intended reactions, so long as you react. Turn up the volume, turn off the movie, avert your eyes, rewind to rewatch, even if you find yourself quoting it months later.