December 2, 2018

The Rev, November 29

This reading series out of Sage Colleges is usually held in Troy, but tonight was in the colorful, bright Opalka Gallery at the Albany Sage campus on New Scotland Ave. The series is coordinated & hosted by poet Matthew Klane, formerly of the Yes! reading series.  There were 2 readers.

Jeff T. Johnson had set up his laptop, wires, the usual cluster of tech stuff, for his reading that he began with selections from his book Trouble Songs; A Musicological Poetics (Punctum Books, 2017), a book-length meditation on the use of the word “trouble” in 20th & 21st century music, accompanied by vocal & instrumental versions of “Secret Rider” (i.e., ‘trouble in mind”), as well as other songs. Then he read from a new work-in-progress "Portal" random, serious, often tedious philosophical reflections, written like random notebook jottings but on the Cloud so he could write them wherever he was, on whatever device he was using -- so 21st century. It included some ramblings about TV, particularly “Twin Peaks;” another section was read with a recording of him reading other sections from the manuscript.

I found the poems of Emily Sieu Liebowitz much more interesting & engaging, perhaps because her work was more descriptive, imagistic, & while equally self-absorbed at times & filled with the lyric “I,” as Jeff Johnson’s, she is less abstractly philosophical. She read mostly from her new book National Park (Gramma Poetry, 2018), including the ode “You Never Forget How to Ride Your Bike,” another, “I’m Always Leaving Together…” which she said was “stolen from AndrĂ© Breton."  The last poem she read, from the book, was titled “Days Separate” & played on repetitions of “I am,” “we were,” “we are,” musical & haunting. In between she read from a new manuscript collection titled “Goodbye,” with each of the sections are numbered & all titled "Goodbye," from which she jumped around, the main character called “X,” like a conversation, or letters, perhaps writing to herself the “you,” like an internal dialogue.

The reading was followed by a mercifully brief Q&A, that somehow got into the topic of the apocalypse, which seems to be in the air, hopefully only for discussion.

The Rev reading series is taking the traditional academic break until next semester.  I for one look forward to next semester’s program. Kudos to the Sage Colleges & to Matthew for making this happen.

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