VVP: Art 434 & Engl. 410

Website for Vision Voice and Practice: An Interdisciplinary Course in Art and Creative Writing

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Two Poems

Last night, Heather McHugh gave a reading (with August Kleinzahler) at LACMA, and it was about as scenic a venue as you could hope for. The poets were framed by a huge black painting (or what I took to be a painting) and were flanked by Richard Serra's immense sculptures Sequence and Band. McHugh's introductions were like little lessons in perception, and two poems in particular stood out: "Etymological Dirge" and "With wine and being lost, with," a Paul Celan poem translated by McHugh and Nikolai Popov. I couldn't find this one online, but it's worth seeking out. You can read another of their Celan translations here.

The idea for the reading was inspired: Speaking the well-considered word into a visual Eden. But the acoustics were terrible. The sofest shuffling of feet reverberated throughout the place and seemed to gain volume and momentum, like a roll of thunder. Kleinzahler's habits of delivery made hearing his work particularly difficult, and McHugh's was transmitted more effectively via her positioning of the mic (she stood away from it) and her mild projection, but I still missed a fair amount of what she said. In other words, when putting together future readings, the LACMA people and co-organizer USC might might look for another room on that indulgent, resplendent campus. Gregorian chanters, on the other hand, should be booked immediately.

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