July 12, 2014 § Leave a comment
I knew it existed, but there’s a significantly closer art house cinema, so I’d never been, until I got it into my head that I would see Snowpiercer while my better half was away. Just on the edge of Foggy Bottom, before you cross the bridge into Georgetown, it’s a tiny theater with three tiny screens. I saw Snowpiercer on a screen perhaps ten feet wide on a chair that, despite being a fancy folding chair, with a cup holder and thick padding and everything, was still a folding chair. But’s a lovely experience for particular kind of bohemian-hipster quaint experience seeker. Also, Snowpiercer is awesome. A beautifully cramped actioner with a pretty brutal portrayal of economic inequality taken to extremes, plus a global warming message, as well.
I had a soda, popcorn, and junior mints. They also had beer and wine and cocktails, but, honestly, it was a four o’clock movie and I hadn’t eaten anything all day, so alcohol sounded like a recipe for a bad movie.
July 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
The other weekend, we went to Wolf Trap for a performance of Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and Ninth Symphony and also of Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes (from Peter Grimes).
The pieces by Britten were pretty Britten-y. Not to knock him, because, I mean, c’mon – he wrote The War Requiem which is an amazing, mindblowing work. But he’s a sentimental sort of composer and these were small, sentimental works.
The Egmont Overture was new to me. It was composed for a production of a tragedy by Goethe named… Egmont. A political play about resistance to oppressive authority, it was right up the alley of the man who composed the Eroica Symphony. And what a great piece. So absolutely moving. And yes, it was very, very political. You didn’t need to know anything about the play or the background to know that this work was making a political statement.
Maybe it was because I was reading Geoffrey Hill’s A Treatise on Civil Power that I wondered if the best lens through which to view Beethoven’s works was political. Is Beethoven a primarily political artist?
Also, I thought about a line from a movie starring the late River Phoenix, for which he was nominated for an Oscar, entitled Running on Empty. It’s a good movie, blah, blah. But what came to me was a line where River Phoenix’s character, to answer his music teacher’s question as to the difference between Beethoven and some piece of popular music (the Beatles or someone like that). ‘You can’t dance to Beethoven,’ he said.
But that’s not really true is it? Because you can’t help but dance to Beethoven. Yes, yes, I understand the whole issue of rhythm, but when Beethoven is played, watch your body and watch the bodies around you. Everyone will start attempting to tap and sway with the music. They’ll fail, of course, but they will try. And so will you. Beethoven makes you want to dance!
During the Ninth, everyone tries to become a conductor, gesticulating in the air because it impels you towards motion, towards action! (political action?) It is more than merely hopeful. It is a rejection of hopelessness in the face of valid reason for despair, and in that, it is inherently religious.
June 30, 2014 § Leave a comment
May 29, 2014 § Leave a comment
May 15, 2014 § Leave a comment
British Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy closed out the 2013-2014 poetry season at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
A witty and warm reader, her style expressed her love of doing poetry readings and her love of the role of poetry ambassador.
I purchased (and asked her to sign) a collection of love poems entitled Rapture. They’re not really just love poems, but chronicle a love affair. Many poems are in correspondence with the sonnet and other traditional forms, with hints of rhyme, without every actually tipping into formalism. It makes for a nice combination of the contemporary, while still referencing the traditional. In fact, she made a great, off hand remark about the sonnet being so ideal for love poems and that being why so many of them are sonnet-like. The sonnet, she declared, is the “little black dress of poetry.”
May 14, 2014 § Leave a comment
We saw Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona performed by the Fiasco Theater at the Folger Shakespeare Library a few weeks ago. They used a minimum of actors, with everyone performing double duty. If I recall correctly, five actors – three men and two women – filled all the roles, with small costume additions and subtractions giving notice of the characters. They even played some live music on stage! However, I would be lying if I didn’t say that one more performer might have improved things.
There were a lot of young people. I think they were in high school. Now that I’m older, I actually cringe a bit when I see young folks at Shakespeare. It’s the prude in me, because until you see it on stage, you forget how many penis jokes Shakespeare includes in his comedies. Actually, I’m pretty sure that this one even had a joke about the a toothless woman having an advantage in terms of performing oral sex vis-à-vis her toothier rivals.
The ending is also problematic, because one of the leading ladies gets her total douchebag man. It’s not as bad as All’s Well That Ends Well, where even the king implies that maybe the heroine should have chosen to kick her chosen wretch to the curb, but it’s hard not to think that at least of the two couples who end Gentlemen will not have a particularly strong marriage.
May 7, 2014 § Leave a comment
May 2, 2014 § Leave a comment
There’s an article in the Washington City Paper entitled ‘22 Questions for the Corcoran.’ It’s worth reading, but mostly, I love this sculpture and wanted to post a picture. Isn’t it amazing? You feel like you can actually see through the veil!
April 29, 2014 § Leave a comment
I finished the Selected Poems by Bernard O’Donoghue. Actually, I finished it something like a week ago, but life and work and stuff has kept me from writing about it. And now that I’m finally writing about it, I don’t have it in front of me, so I won’t be quoting from it. But, trust me. It’s good.
He writes about a life he left behind (according to his talk at the Folger). It’s mostly about a taciturn and unromanticized rural Ireland. Or, actually, it is romanticized. He actually has a poem about watching the great John Wayne movie, The Quiet One, which takes place in rural Ireland. I’m not a John Wayne fan, but I love this movie. Anyway, that movie romanticizes rural Ireland. Sometimes, O’Donoghue romanticizes it by explicitly unromanticizing it. The romance of gritty, poverty-inspired DIY and old fashioned sod busters.
The writing is dense on the page, too. Thick, dense stanzas, with lines being medium long (but not going beyond the available length, so it has to drop down like Whitman or Ginsberg) and mostly the same length, creating a sort of visual square, many times. There is a good deal of mid-sentence enjambment and sentences ending in the middle of a line, but he doesn’t break up the steady meter and it reads smoothly.
I want to right more, but I’m pressed for time.
His work isn’t easy to find, but worth seeking out. So, read it, okay? That’s all.
April 11, 2014 § 2 Comments
Without going into the two books I purchased and got signed (Matter of Fact by Eamon Grennan and Selected Poems by Bernard O’Donoghue), I’ll just write about my impressions of the Monday night’s event.
Originally, Heaney himself was scheduled to appears. But, of course, he died.
So, with some help from the Irish embassy, a collection of three prominent Irish poets (Paula Meehan and the two aforementioned poets whose books I purchased) and two American (Frank Bidart and Jane Hirschfield).
I feel like I have Hirschfield’s collection, After, somewhere in my library but didn’t find it nor, consequently, bring it for a signature. Which is okay. Because one of my takeaways from the evening is that she rubs me the wrong. It’s entirely personal. I feel like that if I were younger (let’s say, late teens or early twenties), I would gladly be here willing disciple and nurture a secret crush on her. At this point in my life, she strikes me as a name dropping caricature of the poet as spiritual shaman. The outfit, the attitude… I feel like she is villain in made for Christian television movie, where the young girl is almost led astray by the wild and probably atheist poet-professor, but is saved by… I don’t know, maybe a pastor the youthful heroine used to think boring and staid or a wise old gardener who never finished college. Something like that. She also dropped a lot of names and locations that made her seem very cool. Did you know that she hung out with Heaney in Rome, at the American school? After he left the boring others behind, he and and his wife drank wine and ate awesome Italian things with Hirschfield in an apartment, probably overlooking somewhere romantic and historical. Having attended the lecture, variations on this incident were drilled into my head. Repeatedly. But, it has to be said and cannot be ignored: Jane Hirschfield is a very, very, very good poet. Not completely my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize quality when I see it (or hear it).
Bidart, who is a poet I greatly admire, was the most interesting speaker, because he actually took the time to not to just read his own poetry (in fact, he read very little of his own), but to almost give a lecture on a particular aspect of Heaney’s oeuvre, namely, political poetry in Heaney’s canon. Bidart also had the longest line of people looking for autographs, which made me feel bad, so I was happy that I went for some of the lesser known poets.
Paula Meehan has one of those great reading voices that seem tailor made for poetry. I’m not sure how if I’d buy a collection of her poetry (I didn’t that night), but I would definitely buy an album of her reading her poetry. She spoke melodically and at length about Heaney’s place in Ireland’s history, literary or otherwise. More than any other poet, she gave a feel for Heaney as a larger than life figure.
Eamon Grennan, besides having a wondrous, Amish style beard, spoke movingly about Heaney’s poetic influence on his work (which is great – I’ll write more about it at a later date, I’m sure).
Finally, Bernard O’Donoghue. A nervous speaker, but also the most knowledgeable about Heaney (as one might expect from someone who has written a book about Heaney’s poetry). He is probably the one I would have most enjoyed hearing more from (though I wish, in the time that he did have, he had taken a page from Bidart’s approach). Again, I’ll write about the book I bought from him later.
At the signing period, I was waiting in line, before realizing that everyone was waiting for Bidart, so I just skipped around and got to chat with both Grennan and O’Donoghue. Of course, one also can’t help but feel bad for the non-superstar poets (at least, non-superstars to the Folger attending, poetry reading public of the DC metropolitan area) and I hope more folks made their way over to the other parts of the table, not being bum rushed by Bidart aficionados.