Monday, April 14, 2008
Poetry Cabaret #1
Michael Dennis hosted Rachel Zolf, Fred Wah and Stuart Ross at the Poetry Cabaret #1 on opening night of the Spring edition of the Ottawa International Writers Festival.
April 13, Fred Wah opened the reading by reading from Sentenced to Light (Talon books), which includes ekphrastic poems from a visual artist who said her painting needed words. She asked him to physically apply the poems to her canvases to complete them. The compositions are included in one chapter. He also read from his newest chapbook, Isadore Blue, about Isadore hitting the Yucatan "between Spanglish and anguish". He played with the sounds of "door" in isadore in a sort of list poem cataloguing the effects of the storm. He will be back in re:reading the postmodern conference in May.
He introduced one piece by saying "a prose poem challenges the writer to do something material with the sentence." The laughter pictured in the top picture was from Zolf's "gah!" reaction to Wah's answer of what book he would choose to be stranded with on a desert island – a copy of collected Rilke like first fired his imagination in a book shop in 1957.
Rachel Zolf read from Human Resources and a chapbook, Shoot & Weep (Nomados, 2008) on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As Michael Dennis put it well, what she read are poems that reach into your ear and twist a gear you didn't know you had. People started clapping and snapping fingers at the pace that started out fast and went well into auctioneer speed as she dealt out layers of concepts piled against each other. The Shoot & Weep is not narrative but makes a powerful emotional impact of accumulating losses of war.
Stuart Ross started his reading by listening to the CD of his poems put to music, (An Orphan's Song: Ben Walker Sings Stuart Ross) then reading from I Cut my Finger and his newest, Dead Cars in Managua. He's always a crowd pleaser with his comic asides and his dark and absurdist twists of delivery within poems such as he claims to be the first horse to have ever been ridden by a man but he was just a tub of margarine in a fridge. isn't that enough? There's always more than you expect and multiple readings even in the simplest he stands on a boulder, talking on a cell phone. his voice falls off
Later in the night Messagio Galore with jwcurry and crew, from 8 pm til nearly midnight, was an introduction to decades of sound poetry. Copies of chapbooks of the performers are in the Nicholas Hoare on-site bookstore.