Friday, June 23, 2006

Faculty reading at the Mattress Factory...

Ok, so we all get in the bus, travel through a terrific storm to get to Pittsburgh's Mattress Factory - a funky, edgy art museum that has multiple layers of contemporary art.... and we congregate to hear the voices of Elizabeth Alexander, Toi Derricotte, Cornelius Eady, Lucille Clifton, and Patricia Smith. Do I have to tell you that it was an incredible experience? Elizabeth read poems that set us all on edge, drawing particularly from Antebellum Dreambook - It was great to see her setting the tone with grace and smarts and tough, living poems that make us aware. I remember when I first read "Venus Hottentot." THose were some of the first examples of a series of poems that excavated Black history, and they have helped me understand how to combine historical research with poetry. And have you read her new book, "American Sublime?" Get it. Now. Cornelius read from a manuscript that he started years ago, poems that had been meant to be in his second book - it really is fascinating to see how a poet changes over the years, how their voice matures and deepens - the thing is, these poems showed me how you those poems can keep growing in you for so long - and then they blossom out of your page... He also read my personal favorite - "Gratitude." If you ain't read it yet, please check it out. Lucille gave us a great surprise - she read poems that have never been published yet. Ms. Lucille is a kind of poetry godmother here at CC, an elder whose work really does "work." Her reading addressed misogyny, racism, war, and beauty in such simple and unparalleled verse - well, you had to be there... Toi read some fascinating work - in two voices - that addressed her relationship with her mother. Samiya Bashir read the voice of her mother, while Toi read her own voice. The things I really dig about Toi are that she always is taking incredible risks in her poems, both personally and politically - and she is always willing to experiment. Plus - she's my Detroit Homie - we have a shared narrative of Motown. Patricia Smith read a great, long poem about Katrina that ripped the hinges off everybody's lids. Suffice to say that tears were shed. Then she went into her persona poem about Tyrell and his barbershop, and the laughter was shattering out through the doors and onto the streets... Pat got so down-home and low-down when she does her persona poems, she BECOMES the person... And what's the sign of a truly great reading? When you see a whole corner of folks scribblin' lines in their little notepads right afterwards, inspired by the heat and the pull and the wave and the bounty of words they have just witnessed. Yeah, folks were all crouched over with their words right after... poems begetting poems begetting poems begetting poems.


Lhea J. Love said...

...that is amazing.

Anonymous said...

As a first year,

I completely wasn't prepared for a reading such as this. It blew me away. no words can explain how each faculty member hit the gut of my heart. (tore all my insides up) There reading was a tresure and I'll cherish it forever.

C.M Archer