Sunday, March 13, 2005

I Forgot to Serve the Mini-Quiches from Costco, But That Was Not a Decisive Omission

In the rubble of our humble home, we drink our coffee and ponder last night's poetry salon, which must have been a success -- if measured by the amount of the rubble. Some of you have undoubtedly heard about the outcome of the salon already on Armed Forces Radio or on the jungle drums. Or by text-messaging during the salon from those in attendance.

Or you may merely have felt a disturbance in the Force.

So if this is repetitious I apologize.

If the salon had a lesson it is that you cannot you cannot you cannot underestimate the power of two voices working together when the two voices are strong, clear and even beautiful, and the timing with which they blend is superb AND THE SUBJECT MATTER, THE THING READ OR RECITED, is of superior quality.

That's vague. I will give an example. Last night Mr. Jeffrey Pressman and Ms. Lyle York did Federico Garcia Lorca's very long poem on the death in the bull ring of the matador Ignacio Sánchez Mejías. This is apparently a world-famous poem.

I did not know that.

A las cinco de la tarde.
Eran las cinco en punto de la tarde.
Un niño trajo la blanca sábanaa las cinco de la tarde.
Una espuerta de cal ya prevenidaa las cinco de la tarde.
Lo demás era muerte y sólo muertea las cinco de la tarde.

At five in the afternoon.
It was exactly five in the afternoon.
A boy brought the white sheet
at five in the afternoon.
A frail of lime ready prepared
at five in the afternoon.
The rest was death, and death alone
at five in the afternoon.

Lyle would do several stanzas in Spanish and hard on their heels, with some overlapping, Jeffrey would do the English translation. Later on he did the English first and she jammed the Spanish up against that. Have you ever heard anyone do work in translation in such a way, so that you get this contrapuntal blend consisting of the pure sound of it followed within the split-second by both the sound and sense of it, that is, the poem in a language you know?

May I recommend this experience? And may I also suggest that this is some stuff you won't see coming and going every day of the week, and you need to keep your eye open for it? I guess my point is that it is both exhilarating and discouraging that in this age of cheap mass entertainment and exorbitant elite entertainment some marvelous things happen only in living rooms among a few friends and acquaintances.

It's art and it's entertainment, but it's also like the creation of the labor union movement: You've got to organize. Call up a few friends and drag our "The Charge of the Light Brigade" if that's the lime in your cerveza.

Anyway, it was a good salon, with not just poetry translation -- which was the theme of the evening -- but comic essays and part of a film script and an email and a James Thurber anecdote and letters found in an attic and translated from the Yiddish and more more more. It was, in short, a melange, and so this sentence maintains the theme of the evening, which was more than some of the participants did which was fine with me.

Now, for you long-term DC/AD addicts, who have been following the salon drama for some days now: My lady wife and I did just fine with the Frost poem. I did not do the Jack Nicholson imitation, as I suggested yesterday, and I did not strangle my wife (pretend strangle, you know, like in a play) at the end of the poem to give the poem a clever and modern, not to say hiphop, twist. We just listened to one another and talked back, and I got up and walked out and found the hired man dead and came back in and told her, and that was that.

One funny thing, though: Our friend Jeffrey did a little intro that was.... You must understand that we came on late after the Lorca, which was a smash. Jeffrey essentially said that, as a director (which he is if you want to get into job descriptions) I worked with these people for about five minutes so cross your fingers, plaster a smile on your face, stick your critical faculty underneath your chair as if it were a wad of chewing gum and remember whose house this is and hope for the best.

I'm paraphrasing.

We did fine. And if I may paraphrase Mark Twain, our performance gratified a few of our friends and astonished the rest.

Mary: "You'll be surprised at him, how much he's broken.
His working days are done; I'm sure of it."

Warren: "I'd not be in a hurry to say that."

Mary: "I haven't been. Go, look, see for yourself.
But, Warren, please remember how it is:
He's come to help you ditch the meadow.
He has a plan. You mustn't laugh at him.
He may not speak of it, and then he may.
I'll sit and see if that small sailing cloud
Will hit or miss the moon."

It hit the moon.
Then there were three there, making a dim row,
The moon, the little silver cloud, and she.

Warren returned -- too soon, it seemed to her,
Slipped to her side, caught up her hand and waited.

"Warren," she questioned.

"Dead," was all he answered.

Jack Nicholson was wrong. We can handle the truth.


Anonymous said...

Though I couldn't agree more about Lyle and Jeffrey, an experience I would describe as a kind of hushed opera duet, I would have tossed as well a bone to the Zipper poem, which was almost as musical and more acrobatic. But that's just me. Sure had a good time.

K. Oboglo

....J.Michael Robertson said...

Brother Oboglo: Had I taken the time, the next thing that should have been praised was your second piece, which was masterful in both idea and execution and actually was the booster rocket that put the salon into orbit. (I mean, dear Catiacs, Oboglo's parody of the aftermath of a rotisserie baseball league draft in which we had bid for promiment American politicians, not baseball players.) I tell you O that sometimes in the salons we get a little twee not to say a little fey and have I mentioned precious, and a stiff shot of haha clears the air. More to the point, a fine comic bit is harder to do than the heavy/dreary any day of the week. But I was lazy and didn't feel like 'splaining the setup, which would have been necessary to get into the praise -- and you had to be there anyway. I do have the tape, of course, to share with future generations.