Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Opening Line exploded

Soon I'm going to go through past entries and post audio files for poems that don't have a recording of me reading them. (I'll post links when I do.) Unfortunately I cannot bring myself to read these poems as passionately while sitting in my room as I can when I'm performing for an audience. Ironically, I feel self conscious that my dorm neighbors will hear me! Also, I just can't unleash my emotions as much as I can when I'm actually performing.

I read this piece for a slam two days ago. It may have been my best performance yet! I screamed, I whispered, I put on voices and really gave it my all. I shook like nothing else under the weight of the passion that reading this poem gave me. And all this over a piece that describes a situation that has never happened and probably never will! I don't know how I bring it out in myself.

I'm pleased to report that I did fairly well at the slam, tying for fourth place out of eight in the second round (the one that counts) and tying for first place in the first round. I read the following poem for the first round, and "An Essay On Beauty" for the second.

the opening line exploded
when the curtains drew open and each lip of the unlikely actress parted ways
her voice shot like sparks,
zapped along under-stage wiring and microphones
and reached the audience, whose dresses and suits caught fire.

the sound was sickeningly girlish
yet frighteningly hoarse
and each aristocrat, as they fanned off their singed bustles and
dusted their blackened monocles
could see without imagination
the faraway lips of the painted puppet,
cracked beneath stage lipstick,
blistered with syphilis
pronouncing the words of Desdemona
as though she was still back on Left Street
leaning over car windows and propositioning likely clients

no black sheep amongst the cast,
the prostitute, nay, headliner Veronica May
was at home in the critically-christened “riffraff Shakespeare”
Othello was a Center Street pimp
insistent on draping his plate-gold chains
amongst the Moor’s ruby-gilded sword and African necklaces
talent if the New York stage ever saw it,
was a former bum
(currently put up in a Park Avenue suite)
whose drunken rants and delirious, mystic ramblings
nearly contested the soliloquies he’d been instructed to recite

that audience,
still smoking from the initial burst of flames,
cried at the mastery of the bum,
who they had all seen and ignored on the MoMA steps.
they laughed as the sword fights became impromptu gang rumbles
and sat in awe at the notion that the theater had given hope to
these otherwise hopeless creatures

Each addict, whore, dealer and hustler
had a score of understudies,
as they tended to die regularly.
This was not mentioned in the rave reviews.
New York Times:
“Experimental to the extreme. Such a cast does not outshine the mastery of the play, but displays performances equal to the veterans of the stage.”

count this true:
every unconscious body scraped off the sidewalk and unto an endless journey on a stretcher—
every woman bruised amongst the eyes and bruised along the arm—
every chauvinist dripped in chains and lacking in shame—
is a small-time actor
in pursuit of attention
and they are not discriminating.

Intellect and fancy dress
written reviews and eloquent compliments
erased not the need for heroin or the lifelong self-hatred
but every production went on on schedule
and the audience never noticed
no, no one ever noticed
that they were not lifesavers

One more piece of information about this poem: I submitted it and another piece, "I was born today three-hundred years from now," to the Citizen at the beginning of last semester. This was in my freshman year. Then-editor Gabriel stopped me one day in the Dalrymple hallway and asked if I would like to be on staff. I had applied my first semester, when he apologetically said that there were too many seniors and veteran staff members who applied for him to allow me a position. (Positions on the Citizen are paid and therefore limited) Of course I accepted.

Look at me now, editor-in-chief, and nominated by Gabriel by the way. The November issue is coming out Monday. There was a lot of controversy dealing with this issue, and I had to make some tough ethical decisions. I'll write more on that in a future post.

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