March 23, 2010

Split this Rock Festival, the Last Night (Part 1), March 13

The final evening of this fabulous festival was 2 readings at Bell High School & like the festival as a whole, it was diverse, sometimes pensive, sometimes raucous.  And speaking of raucous, Regie Cabico was the host for the first part of the evening, becoming breathless over the poetry (& from skipping rope on stage).

  Allison Hedge Coke was the first poet up, with a chant, invocation to America, & celebrating herself singing back. A long poem, "The Change," told of working in the tobacco fields, & the takeover of the farms by agra-business & automated machines, a love-lost poem. She read without introducing the poems, letting the stories from rural & working America speak for themselves, direct & rich.

The poems of Richard McCann were personal in another way, with memoirs of growing up in DC. "Crepe de Chine" was about being his mother's companion/her "best friend". He also read sections from an older, long poem "Nights of 1990," the title an homage to Cavafy, a friend dying of AIDS -- quiet, discursive, pensive poems.

Lenelle Moïse comes up out of the Slam scene, but her style is all her own. She began with "Mud Mothers," pondering Haiti, it's "proud, resilient people," & also did an "Ode to Michael Jackson" because Haitian people love Michael Jackson, she said. Her poem about AIDS was a childhood memory of a queer uncle. Her poems were sometime breathless chants, invocations, rants, sometimes engaging the audience with a call & response, & sometimes pooignant memoirs. And I love the line, "Death is the end of percussion," from her final poem on the heart.

I have read Fady Joudah's translations of Mahmoud Darwish, but had not read or heard any of his own poems. He began by announcing that today is Darwish's birthday & read a few pages from a long poem in tribute. Many of his poems were short, meditative descriptions, such as his first poem about a friend in a hospice, often with minimal (or no) introductions. But politics & history were frequent undertones, as in "Still Life" or "A Line for Water" set in the Middle East, or the more obvious "The Security Level is Yellow" that also brought in Facebook & Jackson Pollack. Still another poet of the festival that I want to read more of.

Time for a break so I led my new poet-friend over to Haydee's (again) & was pleased that she liked it too -- good food, relaxed atmosphere, excellent (& fast) service. Then back for more poetry -- stay tuned.

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