This evening was poetry night at the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit, an event dreamed up by Christina Kallery and sponsored by www.thedetroiter.com.
Four poets read to an audience well over 30 strong in the cozy confines of the CAID. In order or taking the stage:
Jessica Bomarito - co-editor of Absinthe: New European Literature, Jessica has published poetry in Dispatch Detroit and Peshekee River Poetry online.
Christina Kallery - freelance writer and copyeditor, Christina has published poetry in The Metro Times, Rattle, The MacGuffin, 3am Magazine, and others.
Norene Cashen - currently editing Dispatch Detroit, Norene has published poetry in a laundry list of publications and has a book of poems coming out in 2007.
Vievee Francis - a well-known poet in the Detroit area, Vievee has published poems in numerous journals including Callalloo and crab Orchard Review. She has just published her first full collection, Blue-Tail Fly.
Jessica read 8 poems - with the first one being a favorite poem written by somebody else (something each author would do when they first hit the stage). She chose Adam Zagajewski's Transformation.
Jessica then read from her own work:
- "The Morning After" which included the line 'we do not touch, not even angles'
- "Last Drive Up"
- "Attack of the Squirrels"
- "I'm Returning" in which the Sylvia being discussed is a reference to her cat
- "12 Mile Mecca"
Jessica's reading style was impressive considering she let it be known afterwards that it was her first reading in over a year. Her poetry, especially when read aloud by herself, has a great rhythm to it.
Christina was next up and her favorite poem was Li-Young Lee's The Gift. From her own work she read:
- "Swan Falls in Love with Swan Shaped Boat" which was inspired by a headline (used as the title) on a Yahoo website last week. Apparently this swan in Germany has been flirting with a swan shaped boat nearly five times his size for the past month. What was extremely impressive to me was how deep and thoughtful this poem was. Often when I've read or heard a poem inspired by a headline, the poem reverts to humor instead of truly being inspired. This was not the case with this effort.
- "Truck Stop 1 A.M." - sort of a love poem.
The next three efforts were sonnets - the first two of which are the first 2/3 of a trilogy written for her cousin who passed away this past Christmas.
- "Parking in Chinatown" - another love poem about a relationship that is going down fast but you hang around for the ride
- "Adult Night at Skate World" - one of a series of poems inspired by the idea of memorable/meaningful moments occuring in unlikely places. This is a previously published poem that is unbelievably good.
- "The Elvis"
Christina reads with the confidence of either one who has done so many times, or just knows her poetry is going to impress the audience.
Norene Casheen was up next and read Goodbye from Robert Creeley as her favorite poem. Then she read 9 of her own efforts:
- "Beginning of Form"
- "Day Will Finish Us" - with a line from Robert Frost's Apple Picking
- "Dear john" - an experiemental poem (which, per Norene, means that the audience is being experimented upon). This poem reminds Casheen of a line in a Woody Allen film, that she feels is relavent to all poetry - "And I wonder if memory is something you've lost, or something you have?"
- "Together in the Basement" - which had the preliminary statement - "Do not write poems when you are in love, and do not write poems when you are not in love."
- "Beach Scene" - with the line 'lying on the crumbs of the world'
- "Automatic Writing" - inspired by a pamphlet found at the LIbrary Bookstore that warned of allowing spirits to get you to the place of automatic writing. Norene claims she did not find such a mystical experience, just this poem.
- "Wherever You Are"
Norene also reads with a confidence of one who has been on the stage frequently. She made an awful lot of eye contact with the audience throughout her reading and had no problem ad libbing in between poems.
Vievee Francis read Ruth Ellen Kocher's Pluracy before digging into her own oeuvre:
- "The Principals of Vastu as Applied to This House" which she dedicated to her husband
- "Almost" which was inspired by Noam Chomsky's speech in Ann Arbor last year and uses an epigraph from him 'We are all the same genetically, almost.'
- "Coffee Clash Insurrection" - Francis claimed this was only one of two humorous poems in her body of work, and afterwards told me she had NO sense of humor. I'm stunned to hear such as this poem was freaking hilarious.
Her last two poems came right from her newly published book, Blue-Tail Fly (WSU Press):
- "Liberation, Del Norte 1846" a four part poem
- "The Scale of Empire" with a Thomas Cole epigraph. This is the opening poem of her collection.
Vievee is a fantastic and powerful reader, including various tones, and inflections to her reading - frequently looking at the crowd, seemingly having the bulk of the work memorized.
All in all, a very cool evening and one I'd like to see more of in the area.