Wednesday, February 15, 2012

inspire rousing choruses

Oh man, I almost forgot that I went to a reading on Monday night - Stephanie Barber and Barbara DeCesare read some poems at UB and schooled us on how performance and literature can intersect. Barbara is just hilarious, and her short play was notable for causing Adam Robinson (one of the audience members chosen to read it) to yell "let us cast our penises into the sea," and for its mostly accurate depiction of Robert Bly as a pompous old fartbag.

Stephanie's poems are quieter, less bombastic, but still funny in a sly kind of way, and she's very good at engaging readers through small interactions - eye contact, facial expressions, etc. I generally do the token eye contact when I read, and have trouble working with the room with my eyes in a way that isn't jarringly obvious, so hopefully I can pick up some of her mojo through osmosis or something.

Both ladies understand and accept that they are performers when they read their work for an audience, which a lot of writers shy away from to their own detriment. I can't tell you how much good poetry has been ruined for me because the poet is contemptuous (or afraid) of being entertaining instead of highbrow and literary and whatever. It doesn't make sense. If you read your work flatly like you don't care about it, then no one listening will care, either. You don't have to try super hard to put on a show in an artificial, not-really-you sort of way (that's almost worse than being boring), but you do have to accept that, whether you want to be or not, you're a performer when you read your work aloud to an audience. How you embrace that and make it work is up to you.

Relatedly, I also teched a poetry slam last week - Temple and Gayle Danley were the hosts, and man oh man. Those performers were fearless, both in delivery and subject matter, with none of the almost-obligatory forced awkwardness that makes other kinds of readings such a chore sometimes. Slangston Hughes, who won the slam contest portion of the evening, had his ass-kicking boots on that evening, and is someone more people should know about.

Speaking of teching, I need to get to work. While I'm gone, feel free to read this article about how to date a writer, which reads more like a guide to dating a beret-wearing writer stereotype from an early-90s sitcom.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

chronological age is not a consideration

Revising short stories is hard, so I'm going to look up fellowships and ramble about art for a second here.

Went to the BMA yesterday and stumbled into their Print By Print exhibit, which the BMA describes as "an epic tour of serial printmaking." I bet that's not a phrase they use very often. In any case, there are some awesome print series on display in there, particularly Piranesi's "Imaginary Prisons," which I'd never seen before. Holy crap. If there was ever a group of images that captured the essence of my upcoming thesis book, it's "Imaginary Prisons." The prints are smoky and dark and distorted, and full of weird, purposeless machinery. The visual effect is very Kafka-esque, or like the menace behind the redundancy of a French farce.

And with all that, what you have are some very cool and inventive pieces of art that challenge you and make you work a little bit, but they're enormously rewarding once you put the time in.

Here's a link to the full series. The website is in Russian, but I think the click-the-thumbnail UI is pretty straightforward. And hey, on the off-chance you can read Russian, what a great time to practice.