Distribution Automatique

Sunday, March 20

Spring In This World Of Poor Mutts

was the title of a book of poetry by the superb poet
Joe Ceravolo. Early this morning, at about 7:30 am,
the first moment of Spring, the vernal equinox, occurred.
What poet does not respond to the coming of Spring
without a little song in the heart? Lots of songs were in the air
yesterday at the Bowery Poetry Club where we went to hear and see
Tim Peterson and Brenda Iijima. Tim, whose
blog is Mappemunde {click here},
and who sponsors the Analogous series (see the blog for details,
Lyn Hejinian and Emilie Clarke are presenting today, in Cambridge, Mass),
has had two chapbooks published, one titled Cumulous from
Brenda Iijima’s Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, and the other
from Jack Kimball’s ebook faux press, Trinkets Crushed In A Blender.
On Saturday, Tim, in a ringing, clear, yet sensitive and lyrical voice,
read mostly from his chapbook Cumulous. His reading style put these
absorbing works in a fine light: syncopated, sure, the line enjambments
came through strikingly, criss-crossing each other, and creating a layered effect
of meanings and juxtapositions. We hope he comes back soon, as some
who unfortunately may have missed this program, deserve another
chance to hear him. Brenda, who is a painter as well as a poet,
read works from her recent book
around sea- O Books {click here}.
My copy was purchased directly from Brenda at her reading a few months back at the Zinc Bar, and
I obtained one whose cover was graced by a painting she added by hand;
she had brought a number of copies, each with a unique cover.
As a publisher and as a poet, Brenda reveals an inventive
outpouring and wide range of thought-provoking ideas and
interests. Her unmatchable determination and fortitude were
revealed on this occasion by the fact that she read in spite of a
terrible case of the flu. Still, in an aside, she had the focus to talk
about a recent article concerning the thought processes of animals,
and wondered aloud if the poem she was about to read were channeled
to her by the local birds!
Noted in the audience were poets Rodrigo Toscano,
Mark Weiss and Mitch Highfill, as well as bloggers
Xtina Strong and Drew Gardner.

The emcee, Charles Borkhuis accompanied a few of us
to one of the BPC poets’ favorite local Indian restaurants
Haveli, where Toni and I had to content ourselves with
appetizers because we had reservations so soon nearby
at PS 122 for Fiona Templeton’s, workshop version of a few
acts from her play-in-progress Medead. Before we left,
Mitch Highfill gave Toni and I a copy of Kimberly Lyons’
new book Saline from Instance Press, in Boulder. Colorado,
with a cover designed by Brenda Iijima and Anna Moschovakis.
The title is taken from the concluding prose poem:
“Like perpendicular shadows, people grab one another
suddenly in affection. Rattle drawers throwing everything
to the floor while looking for keys or something bought at a
drugstore or something found behind papers on a high shelf.
A person might scream in pain or seem beset with some feeling
while looking for this. People laugh so hard they kick their boots
on the floor and tears come to their eyes.”

[Aside: this quote was changed from the original version
of this post, which was completed and then unfortunately
bleeped out, due to so-called “instability” in the functioning
of blogger. The quote beautifully reflected my
response to this experience]

Then we hurried over to PS 122. “Medea on the Argo”
and “Medea in Corinth” by
Fiona Templeton {click here}

were shown as parts of a
development workshop by the Mabou Mines
Resident artist program for 2004-2005.
The cast included: Amelie Champagne Lyons as Medea in
Aia, Clarinda MacLow aas Medea on the Argo,
Theo Stockman played Jason, Jackson Loo was Orpheus,
Anna Kohler played Medea in Corinth and Valda Setterfield
was "Medea returns and bird". The latter referred to the bird
sounds created by Valda Setterfield during the first part, a
moving, eerie musical accompaniment to most of the
first act evoking a lonely sea voyage. Clarinda MacLow
was electrifying as Medea in this part, bringing together
a powerful portrayal of Medea’s insanity with a rendering
of Fiona Templeton’s poignant poetry that will be
long remembered by all who were there.
Between the acts during a break,
Toni mentioned that she thought of
Clarinda MacLow’s father, the late Jackson Mac Low’s
poetry performances, during most of the first act, and,
though I hadn’t thought of this, I knew exactly what she meant.
Clarinda has certainly had much experience hearing and seeing poetry
read by one of the greatest poets of her generation, her father the late
Jackson Mac Low. Still, her own performance
work revealed astonishing originality
and penetrating insight into human emotions and conflict.

Anna Kohler’s Medea dominated the second half,
and was also powerful. Much of her performance
took place on a platform moved by pulleys and her mastery
of Templeton’s poetry was also impressive.
I was reminded of how astonished I was seeing
Mac Wellman’s plays some years ago, when actors
were able to memorize page after page of
highly disjunctive poetry and work with their roles
as if they were speaking ordinary language.
Anna Kohler created her Medea masterfully,
portraying the character’s motivations and conflicts
with convincing psychological reality,
without losing any of the haunting,
yet forceful and stirring aspects of Templeton’s poetry.
“What, unraveling already?”, she says at one point,
as her character’s personality dissolves
in the agonistic atmosphere
of her homicidal conflicts. Templeton’s poetry, in the speeches of her
characters demands to know, again and again:
what do our words really say
about what we are experiencing and wishing
or trying to say to one another?
At just the moment when I was writing that last comment
on my playbill, Medea (Anna Kohler) was saying:
“A baby is an easy word to say. It’s a hard eared basket case.”
At another point Medea says to the chorus:
“If it’s not true how do we know so much about it?”
The chorus answers in one voice: “It was told!”
It was told indeed, and told well and masterfully
by Fiona Templeton & cast.

And, thankfully, there’s more to come: The playbill tell us:
"Watch for more this summer at The Ice Factory, with Valda Setterfield as Medea:
Ice Factory {click here}