Thursday, May 29, 2003

Artspace (Gloucester, MA)
Wednesday Night

Since a few Boston-area readers of this weblog expressed an interest in the goings on last night at Artspace in Gloucester, here's a very limited and very subjective (&, as always, digressive) account.

I'll start w/ a digression. (Can one digress before one has begun?) On Yoo Doo Right ( Mike County, talking about using Donne poems to create "superficial" constraints for his poems, writes "There's no ideological basis other than those superficial arrangements. Just a way to get some writing done at times when I feel overwhelmed by work/life." Yeah, "overwhelmed by work/life." The same need to get some work done--to get writing--sent me to work on translations of Federico Garcia Lorca this winter. It wasn't so much a decision as a realization. I simply found myself translating the poems as I read them in Spanish. It was a powerful *reading* experience. (Very *absorptive*.) Then I grabbed my pad. {Who out there composes by pen? Who by pencil? Who by computer? & then how do you revise?} I wrote down one of the translations I did in my head, making a few changes as I did so; I then typed it into my PC, making a few more changes. The rest of the story is predictable. I stayed up far too late, which for me (as a high school English teacher is laughably earlier as compared to many of your internal clocks, I'm sure). Nevertheless, having these translations to do gave me some definable, nameable {spelling is strange} work to do. I had to, as one says, get it done. I've tried--like Mike--to create such tasks w/ my own work, but thus far I've failed. Any ideas?

Back to the events in Gloucester: I finished up some grading here at GHS around 330 & Amanda & I went to Cafe Sicilia to watch the European Cup final, AC Milan v. Juventus. Paolo, the owner of the cafe, is a big Juve fan. (After Celtic played them in the Champions League last year I became a bit of a fan myself. Davids & Trezeguet are brilliant footballers.) After 90 minutes the teams were tied & Amanda & I had to leave to prepare dinner for the folks (hello!) coming up from the Boston-area for the reading.

Once at home (while cleaning, printing out the poems I planned to read, & reading the poems aloud) I had a few glasses of red wine--always a good idea before a reading; whiskey (especially Powers, Paddys or Jamesons) works too--& a few more (plus a shot of Powers) when friends arrived. Amanda made an amazing one hour sauce. (We shouldn't have indulged in watching the Cup final, but it's the last big club match until late August at best.) Everyone--Gerrit Lansing, Joe Torra, Bob D'Attilio, Jim Dunn, Greg Cook (no relation), Zac Martin, Tim Peterson, Christina Strong, Aaron Tieger (aye dios, am I forgetting anyone?)--had a bit to eat (including some focaccia Paolo gave us gratis--he must have been devastated when Juve lost 3-2 on penalty kicks). At about 740/745(?) we headed downtown for the reading.

The reading led off w/ an open-mic. Brian King, the impresario, began with two Patti Smith influenced songs set in Gloucester. Right now I'm questioning why the songs put in me in mind of Patti Smith. There was something in both the strumming & the vocal delivery I think. These songs sound like rock--as opposed to folk--songs, which is, I think, a compliment of sorts. John, whose last name I didn't catch, came next & played some bluegrass tunes in a fairly straight folk-style. (I may be getting this order wrong.) A woman named Aura read poems about sex & gardening. The phrase "giving away kisses like frequent flyer miles" stood out to Zac both because he like the phrase & because it was a unique (ironic) moment in her work. Another accoustic folk performer concluded the pre-reading open-mic with light satires in the folk vernacular. One was a song about men being violent and abusive. Some people didn't know if he was delivering the songs straight or w/ tongue in cheek. Since I'd heard him at an anti-war reading, I assured those around me that he was a card carrying NPR lefty.

Back at our place in Annisquam Joe Torra, Amanda, and I had drawn lots as to who should read first, second, and third. I drew the leadoff spot. I decided to read "Opening the Eyelid" (the poem not the entire book) by David Rattray. I had read through the poem a few times earlier Wednesday--a few passages were tricky for my tongue--but I was still overwhelmed by the power of the poem once I began to give it voice.

Reading the Rattray was one of the best reading experiences I've had. Bits of the poem have been flashing into my mind all day, especially when reading _Metamorphosis_ (w/ tenth graders) & _Hamlet_ (w/ eleventh graders). I feel I've been --in all too brief moments--conjuring (parallel) verbal universes. (Here's to visionary poems in all their forms!)

After the Rattray I read a poem "Lyric/for Gerrit Lansing," which I'd written as a birthday present for Gerrit a few months back. I was happy to read it w/ Gerrit present & happy to do so after reading from Rattray whose prose piece "The Mantis" inflamed memories of Gerrit's work on a train ride from Gloucester to Boston during which I wrote "Lyric".

I finished by reading my translation of Lorca's "Mirror Suite". Reading those poems I realize there's something unsatisfying about them, but I could also hear in them something that I could borrow for my own work. I should have read fewer of them but preceded by the original Spanish. Then I might've felt a presence--the duen de casa?--as I did while reading "Opening the Eyelid".

Amanda read next. She read the "My University" passage of Mayakovsky's "I Love". She also read a passage selected by Zac & her favorite Mayakovsky passage:
I spit on the fact
That Homer and Ovid didn’t create
Soot-covered with pox,
Men like us all,
But at the same time, I know
That the sun would fade
If it looked at the golden fields of our souls.
(from "Cloud in Trousers")

Amanda warned everyone to avoid reading a translation of the poem called "Cloud in Pants". I agree (but can't remember the translator's name just now, though I do recall that he was British & used the phrase "puddin' head.")

Amanda then read a poem including an image of slashed canvases lying by the side of the road. (A member of the audience happened to remember the very same slashed canvas.) Amanda's poems of love and adoration followed. A few of you out there have heard or read these poems a few times now. Do you know who's who? These poems are very simple, beautiful, and tender. What followed--an anti-Yankees, anti-Roger Clemens poems--could not be described with the later of the previous adjectives but was certainly timely. (Put "299" on your glove R.C.!)

{I must begin packing up here at GHS...Joe Torra still to come.}
{Thanks to Michael Carr and Jim Behrle for *significant* corrections to the report on Saturday evening (4/26) at MIT.}