May 3, 2014 § 1 Comment
…to get a surge of inner life or inner supply or unexpected sense of empowerment, to be afloat, to be out of yourself.”
- Seamus Heaney.
April 22, 2014 § 2 Comments
Last evening, cast and crew gathered in a back room for the first read-through of Sam Shepard’s Pulitzer Prize winning play.
The very first production of Buried Child was directed by Robert Woodruff who, many years later, would have Profile’s Artistic Director, Adriana Baer, under his tutelage at Columbia University. Last night, Adriana addressed her actors, crew, and guild members, speaking of her excitement to step into her chapter in this particular lineage.
The Pulitzer was awarded to Shepard based solely on the merits of the written page (performance/production is usually taken into account by the Drama jury) and the actors were encouraged to read through the play naturally. Often Shepard’s plays are read and staged ‘heightened’ because of the surreal and crazy situations his characters find themselves in.
For now, it was okay to just have the words—”we’ll find the situation later,” said Baer who encouraged us to embrace the play’s contradictions without judgement. For the characters in Buried Child, everything is true in the moment, and the truth changes, while remaining true, from moment to moment. The play only seeks to ask questions and the audience is to find their own answers to whatever they feel, think, believe, those questions are.
Before the read-through, we also heard a little from those lovely folks behind the scenes who are busy with costumes, music, props, and lighting. I particularly liked this little model that holds true to Shepard’s sparse stage conception. It’s a visceral as opposed to a literal architecture. The designer imagined the home as a contorted place that is reacting to and rejecting the people who exist there, poisoning their own lives, perpetually stuck inside their story.
And yet, not—or not always.
Typical of Shepard, humor cut through horror, levity grappling with loneliness and longing, and the reading elicited many laughs and wry smiles from those of us who were lucky enough to sit in on it last night.
The actors are already so good—particularly those playing Dodge and Shelly. It’s fascinating to attend these first readings and I’m excited to see where they go with it in the next six weeks.
If you’re living in the Portland area, Buried Child plays May 29th through June 15th and I think it will be one to watch.
April 1, 2014 § 2 Comments
Last April, Powells bookstore presented a battle of the poets, wherein Emily Dickinson was declared the Best Poet Of All Time.
This year, in recognition of National Poetry Month and the Year of Reading Women, Portland’s favorite bookstore has us battling it out again with an all-female line-up.
I am into it.
Check out the contestants and cast your vote here.
There are a good many on the ‘bracket’ that are unknown to me so you know how I’m spending my next few evenings. Any favorite poets on the list? Happy for any poem recommendations!
Happy happy Poetry Month!
April 1, 2014 § 1 Comment
The Two Trees
by Larry Levis
My name in Latin is light to carry & victorious.
I’d read late in the library, then
Walk out past the stacks, rows, aisles
Of books, where the memoirs of battles slowly gave way
To case histories of molestation & abuse.
The black windows looked out onto the black lawn.
Friends, in the middle of this life, I was embraced
By failure. It clung to me & did not let go.
When I ran, brother limitation raced
Beside me like a shadow. Have you never
Felt like this, everyone you know,
Turning, the more they talked, into . . .
Acquaintances? So many strong opinions!
And when I tried to speak—
Someone always interrupting. My head ached.
And I would walk home in the blackness of winter.
I still had two friends, but they were trees.
One was a box elder, the other a horse chestnut.
I used to stop on my way home & talk to each
Of them. The three of us lived in Utah then, though
We never learned why, me, acer negundo, & the other
One, whose name I can never remember.
“Everything I have done has come to nothing.
It is not even worth mocking,” I would tell them
And then I would look up into their limbs & see
How they were covered in ice. “You do not even
Have a car anymore,” one of them would answer.
All their limbs glistening above me,
No light was as cold or clear.
I got over it, but I was never the same,
Hearing the snow change to rain & the wind swirl,
And the gull’s cry, that it could not fly out of.
In time, in a few months, I could walk beneath
Both trees without bothering to look up
Anymore, neither at the one
Whose leaves & trunk were being slowly colonized by
Birds again, nor at the other, sleepier, more slender
One, that seemed frail, but was really
Oblivious to everything. Simply oblivious to it,
With the pale leaves climbing one side of it,
An obscure sheen in them,
And the other side, for some reason, black bare,
The same, almost irresistible, carved indifference
In the shape of its limbs
As if someone’s cries for help
Had been muffled by them once, concealed there,
Her white flesh just underneath the slowly peeling bark
—while the joggers swerved around me & I stared—
Still tempting me to step in, find her,
And possess her completely
March 30, 2014 § 1 Comment
by Ron Koertge
Q. You’re Such a Disciplined Writer. Were You Always That way?
A. When I was in graduate school, I worked part-time at a local library. I ran the used bookstore in the basement. The money came in handy. There was plenty of time to study.
I learned to know the regulars who talked about living with pain and waiting for bland meals to be delivered.
One sweltering afternoon I read about Tibetan body breakers who dismember corpses with their hatchets and flaying knives so the vultures will have an easier time.
I imagined my own body and the monks asking, “What did this one do?” And the answer would be, “Not much.” As the hand I could have written with flew away from the wrist.
March 6, 2014 § 2 Comments
A periodic news and reading roundup
(or: the most interesting, weird and worthwhile ways I procrastinated of late).
I am procrastinating writing about my trip to Seattle for this year’s AWP conference. There’s a lot to process, a lot to think about. I learned a lot.
And in the spirit of ever and always learning…
The Writing University is offering free, online courses in creative writing and literary analysis. Associated with and supported by the University of Iowa, classes are a combination of readings and audio/visual recordings.
I just signed up for their first course, a close reading of the wonderful poem, Song of Myself, by Walt Whitman. The course officially started in February but, as there are no assignments or other requirements, I believe it’s not too late for you to sign up too!
Another exciting discovery (and by discovery I mean that I just found out about something everyone else already knows) is the Writing Lessons feature on The American Scholar website.
Each Monday a poet, novelist, essayist, journalist, or a scholar recalls a piece of advice or an experience that was most helpful to their writing career. I like this tiny essay On Weirdness by Nathaniel Rich.
“Life is extraordinarily weird. Art must be weirder.”
And on a completely unrelated note (or maybe not), this GoPro video of a pelican learning to fly is the best. The best!