April 7, 2014

Split This Rock Poetry Festival, Saturday March 29 — Evening Featured Reading

It’s Saturday Night!Regie Cabico proclaimed as he pranced on stage to a disco beat in an iridescent silver clubbing outfit, setting his tone for evening. The tribute poet tonight was Jake Adam York (1972-2012) with a recording of him reading a civil rights poem.

The DC Youth Slam poet was Thomas Hill (aka, he said, “The Cinnamon Gentleman”). He did 2 pieces, the quietly stated “Sunday Morning,” read from his chapbook Chronophobia then performed a poem about reciting poetry on the DC Metro, filled with the characters & wild images of such a ride.

The venerable Yusef Komunyakaa read without intros to his poems, & without theatrics, just his rich expressive voice & the rich images of his lines. He read “Requiem” (New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina), “Fortress,” then “Ode to the Oud” invoking the images & history of Africa. Then 2 poems filled with images of the sea, one beginning “If I am not Ulysses…” (& images of bed as well), & “Islands.” Like all good poetry, his poems were like serious music — one can sense what they are about, carried along by the sounds & images, but they can be difficult to paraphrase.

Both Franny Choi & later Wang Ping did their performance poems from the microphone. Franny Choi began reciting her poem from Poetry magazine, “To the Man Who Shouted 'I Like Pork Fried Rice' at Me on the Street” in what I think was an extended version. “The Mirror” was a poem in the 3rd person, then “Letter from the World to My Eyes/From My Eyes to the World.” Some she read, such as “Too Many Truths,” some, such as the elegy “Notes on the Existence of Ghosts,” she recited. Another political piece was about oppression, of any kind -- police, military, even individual oppression, naming names. Her last piece, “Pussy Monster,” was a deconstruction/re-arranging of the Lil Wayne song into a list of the words of the song in ascending order of occurrence — can you guess what word, the last word(s) of the poem, was used most often?

Wang Ping was the first of the Festival’s featured poets to perform with music with DC-based musician Van, with wooden flute, congas & a guitar as needed. Her first piece, “A Haca Man Farms Rare Earth in South China,” was a tale of sludge, acid fumes & greed. Similarly “Dust Angels” which she read first in Chinese, then in English, was dedicated to Chinese immigrant workers & was about the dangers of their work & their exploitation by factory owners. Changing continents “On the Play Ground in Park Slope…” was about watching an adopted Chinese girl being yelled at my her Nanny. She ended with a poem about the Iraq war, “Tsunami Chant,” dedicated to peace protestors.

Then Regie brought all the poets on stage to boogie with him, even the reluctant Komunyakaa -- dancing away to the end of night. After all it was Saturday night.

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