Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’

well versed

October 17, 2009
Dan Fogel with Jean-Pierre Roy's painting

Dan Fogel with Jean-Pierre Roy's painting

The current Firehouse Gallery exhibit “human = landscape” is one manifestation of  The Energy Project, a collaborative effort to explores the relationship between people and the world we live in: the natural world, and the landscape we’ve created to sustain and support ourselves.

So, what does that really mean.  

It means futuristic paintings of nature reclaiming the world, water and vines thriving in humanity’s ruined structures in the wake of some unnamed calamity (very “Logan’s Run” in their look and feel). It means discussions, installations, photographic essays and partnerships with other regional organizations to engage the community simultaneously on scientific and artistic levels.

This past Thursday night it also meant poetry.

Seven local and regional poets were invited to the second floor of the Firehouse to read their own work and share the verse of other poets on themes of natural phenomena, and human intervention in the natural world. The gathering was the inspiration of UVM President Dan Fogel, a poet, English literature scholar, and the husband of Firehouse board member Rachel Kahn-Fogel. His introduction to the event drew an elegant parallel between the Industrial Revolution and the writings of Romantic poets Keats, Shelley, Byron, Wordsworth and Coleridge. Later in the evening against the backdrop of a large dystopian Jean-Pierre Roy landscape, Fogel concluded his reading with Percy Shelley’s evocative Ode to the West Wind.

Other readings came from Irish poet Angela Patten; Antonello Borra (UVM Italian professor); Daniel Lusk; Isaac Cates (who began with an inspired reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73…see below); and UVM Spanish professor Tina Escaja in a dual presentation with translator Helen Wagg.

This isn’t the kind of event that’s conceived to present solutions or a thorough scientific examination of the topic at hand. But, as always with the artist’s special charge in the world to observe and interpret life’s offerings, the words and thoughts carefully shaped and shared in the human = landscape poetry reading provided something equally intellectual and certainly as meaningful as any technical discourse: perspective.

(The Human = Landscape exhibit is open through October 24th at Burlington’s Firehouse Gallery.)

~ ~ ~

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

cruelest month

April 3, 2009

It happened rather quietly, maybe you haven’t even noticed yet. April arrived midweek without much more notice than Carl Sandburg’s fog gave as it crept in on cat’s feet.

2009 Nat'l Poetry Month Poster

2009 Nat'l Poetry Month Poster

With the new month comes the beginning of National Poetry Month30 mellow days set aside every year to encourage reading, writing, reflecting upon, and – most important of all – sharing your own creative expressions of the written word.

There are too many music/poetry connections to list…from Orsino’s “If music be the food of love, play on” (Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night ), to Kerouac’s gritty bop-infused musings to the 700+ (!)  songs written by Franz Schubert on verse by contemporaries including  Goethe, Byron, Heine and Rückert. (And that’s just Schubert: now think about the thousands of other works by musicians in all genres through the centuries, inspired by poetry of one kind or another.)

If you aren’t familiar (and even if you are) with Kurt Elling’s recent read on “The Waking”, treat yourself to a special experience and take a few minutes to check it out.  Elling’s tribute is nothing short of breathtaking in its fresh, spare (voice + string bass duet), passionate and perfectly metered interpretation of the classic Roethke poem. Elling is one of our finest living jazz vocalists, and he’s a devoted poetry fan. It’s evident in every thoughtfully nuanced note he sings.

brilliant-corners-winter-08Collections of poetry on musical themes can also make for fun reading,  “What Sweeter Music” (Everyman’s Poetry, 2000) is a nice one and so is “The Music Lover’s Poetry Anthology” (Persea Books, 2007).

Some of my favorites in this genre are actually collections of poetry written about jazz. Something about the raw, visceral roots of this music inspires poetry of equal power. For one of the best anthologies look no further than the ongoing series “Brilliant Corners” (named after the Monk tune, edited by Sascha Feinstein). 24 issues to date and counting, with contributions from names that resonate deeply with the bebop beat: Billy Collins, Amiri Baraka, Hayden Carruth, Philip Levine.

And you don’t have to live in NYC or Philly, or have a standing reserved table at Baker’s or Tippitina’s to be hip to today’s jazz and jazz lit. Right here on the homefront, Vermont poets like Major Jackson, David Budbill (who also has credits on several spoken-word recordings), David Huddle and many others give the music new dimension in their writings.

Not a poet yourself? Not everyone is. You don’t have to write poetry to read poetry and appreciate it, in one form or another.

If you have written poetry about music and you’d be interested in sharing it, click on “Comment”, below. Include your poem in the note and let me know if it’s OK to make it public and post it. (When you send me a comment here your poetry will not go directly on to the world of music site, it will only be posted if you tell me it’s alright to share it.)

Every ‘slam‘ starts with an offering from a sacrificial poet. I’ll volunteer myself this time, though in doing so I’m not exactly claiming to live up to the title! In the spirit of Nat’l Poetry Month, here’s one I wrote about a year ago. It struck me how ludicrous it was to be driving home in a blinding ice storm when I couldn’t even see the road, jamming to Willie Colón’s hot salsa grooves turned up LOUD. The music made for such a seductive contrast to the Vermont winter raging on all around, impassive and oblivious.

Ice Storm

Drove off the road
to Willie Colón
– floated, more like it.

Sliding aside
‘bones and bongo
a two-step glide
with San Juan’s favorite son.

All alone on the bodega floor
the flowered dress
wants more.
She sways,
perfumed counterpoint
to the grey gringo suits,
grim and cool
from the smoky corners
of a Nor’Eastern winter.

Only their eyes move.

Left, to right, to left.

Got one to share? Send it on over.  And, cheers to April!

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