Saturday, October 22, 2011

Poetry Lab is on hiatus : The Soundry in Vienna, VA has closed

After 3 years of tremendously successful efforts building a community of artists in Vienna, VA., the Soundry was shuttered for apparent financial difficulties. For 22 months of that span, the Poetry Lab has proudly called the space there "HOME'. And the list of poets who graced the stage there is longer than I am prepared to go into at this moment. I will say that we have had poets from Indiana, Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Colorado, and Washington DC "in the house".

Unfortunately, this puts the Poetry Lab into immediate hiatus while we figure out how (and where) we will proceed.

more details are they become available.

thanks to one and all!


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Paul Fauteux The Best Way to Drink Tea

This is a Poetry Lab success story!

I met Paul at the Soundry in late Sept. 2009 during one of their Verbal Assault nights. Every Friday was a Verbal Assault night, actually. Verbal Assault being a combination of poetry/comedy/performance/dialogue/WHAT-HAVE-YOU nights at the time. I was there to tune up for a reading I was involved with the following weekend outside of Baltimore and I remember Paul as much for his one legged hopping as for his poetry.

A few months later, December 2009, I started the Poetry Lab on the first Friday of the month at the Soundry and Paul was a fixture from the beginning. I liked what I heard and I also knew he was in the MFA program at George Mason. He kept coming to the Poetry Lab and I kept getting to hear him, so in the natural progression of things, I offered him a Feature for November 2010. Now, Paul is a regular at the Soundry so word of his upcoming Feature was shared with Jen, the owner of the Soundry, who urged Paul to "do something different" and with that was born a multimedia presentation of a poem that Paul had written earlier entitled "The Best Way to Drink Tea". He debuted the piece in November 2010 with a short film by Ben Nicholson and percussion by Spencer Leach. It was stunningly successful! Even as it was being performed for the first time, while standing in the back of the room, I knew that this was something special. They had done something very, very interesting.

I immediately approached Paul about publishing the piece. That led to the book The Best Way to Drink Tea which came out in Spring 2011, with a still image from Nicholson's film on the cover. It's now in its second printing and the group (dunno if they consider themselves as a group but for writing purposes I group them) have performed the piece a few times. It's been recorded for eventual Youtube posting. The book is available here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

March 2011

(host stevenallenmay), Barbara DeCesare, Travis Leith, W F Lantry.

Another great reading. DeCesare traveled down from PA. Travis lives in Sterling, VA and Lantry in Silver Spring, MD. Each brought a different element to the event. Barbara combined her strong reading presence with a "radio play" which included most of the audience - group participation! Got to love that.

Travis recited his polished work with musical accompaniment, albeit digitally mastered. Lantry read in his relaxed stance which is his normal at the Poetry Lab.

The open reading saw a developing crop of new poets working out their own voice and presentation stylings. I read a brand new piece that was "cannibalized" from The Beat Generation by Albert Zugsmith, taken from the screenplay for the movie "The Beat Generation" which was produced by Zugsmith. I was intent on making fun of the pathetic attempt of the author to "get" the Beat language. While reading, Barbara DeCesare pounced on bongo drums which were on the edge of the stage and provided me with some improv percussion at the same time that M. Magnus began to bang metal chairs together, producing an unexpected cacophony. The piece concluded with me tossing the source book across the room. An audience member later retrieved the book and asked to keep it. I had circled the passages in the text that I used for the poem, "girl with no bra chanting weird poetry". All the same, I gave the gentleman the book. I didn't need it any longer.

With 35 people in the audience, the night was a raging success! Hurrah for poetry in Northern VA!!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Feb. Plan B Press poetry mob

robert miltner, jason venner, stevenallenmay, Constance Boyle, Jo Barbara Taylor, C L Bledsoe

an incredible night tied-in to AWP event. Everyone was great. Taylor brought visuals, great night.

Monday, December 27, 2010

time flew - update

November 2010 saw Joseph Ross and Jullian Bledsoe featured at the Poetry Lab.

In December it was Ann Forstater and Paul Fauteux (Paul did a very cool multi-media presentation)

In Jan 2011 there will be Zack Haber & Jo Barbara Taylor.

The Poetry Lab has already seen poets from Indiana, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. With Jo Taylor we will be adding North Carolina to the list. In February, Poetry Lab will be occurring during AWP which will be held in Washington DC & will be featuring a number of Plan B Press poets who will be in town for the event. Robert Miltner, Jason Venner, Dan Maguire, Finley Evans, Jo Barbara Taylor, Elizabeth Bodien, and others will fill the Lab with their incredible voices.

Monday, October 25, 2010

6 questions with Joseph Ross

1) I understand that you are originally from California, how has the move east affected your work?

JR: I don't know if the move east affected it specifically. Rather, I think my work is always affected by my place. In Washington, D.C. my world is very diverse and that is reflected in my poetry. My relationship, my love of another man is certainly reflected in my work, not as explicitly as for some gay poets but it's always there. The "outside-ness" of that reality is always there. I think my move to Washington, D.C. was also a move into the unknown and that pilgrimage or search is very present in my poetry.

2) When did you start writing poetry? Who were your original influences?

JR: I began writing poetry in high school and it was awful, of course. I continued in college and it got a little better but not until I was in graduate school at Notre Dame did I begin to feel like I was truly taking it seriously. My strongest influence is probably the Irish poet William Butler Yeats. He's very traditional but his poems have mattered to me all my life. I have to say Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes are both powerful influences and have been since high school. More recently, Martin Espada's poems have affected me a lot.

3) You are associated with what I would call “witness” or “poetry of consciousness”, has your poetry come from your convictions?

JR: I think so, yes. I think some of my poetry comes from my desire to bear witness, to tell the story others cannot tell. My Darfur poems (a series I've written) seeks to do that. I think the poet in the world today needs to speak what he sees. When I look at the world, I don't see "roses and moonlight" as Langston Hughes said. I see a suffering, difficult world and so that is the world I write about.

4) How do you find time to write?

JR: I just make it. I don't have a lot of sympathy for poets who complain that they have no time to write. I might not write everyday, but nearly do. You make time for the things that matter to you and writing matters to me. I can't imagine going without it. I'm grateful that I don't have the deserts of non-writing some poets talk about.

5) What was the first book of poetry you bought for yourself (not for class)?

JR: It was the collected works of William Butler Yeats.

6)Tell me a little about your current projects, I understand you have a mss.

JR: Yes. I have a manuscript called "Meeting Bone Man" which is a reflection on mortality from a variety of perspectives: personal, political, spiritual. I am currently working on a second manuscript which uses lots of religious or spiritual images and themes. It is titled "The Gospel of Dust." I'm very excited about it because it takes me back to religious images whose meanings have changed for me. I deliberately had to go without them for a time but now I am comfortable with them again-- although in a new way.

6 questions with Jillian Bledsoe

1) So, you are married to a writer/poet. I am wondering if you both attempt to write at the same time in the same house, or if you relegate yourself to separate locations to create

JB : It’s funny that you ask about how the two of us write. It’s actually writing that brought us together in the first place, but once we hit grad school our careers took two very different paths. My process is incredibly different from Cort’s. He’s obsessive about writing – he feels like he’s somehow failed at life if he doesn’t write something every day, so he’s up early and keeps the peace with a mug of tea and his laptop first thing in the morning. I really don’t start to function until about 10 am, despite the fact that I’m in the classroom long before that, but that’s okay because I write in stolen minutes and always have, even when I was dedicating years of my life to the study of writing. I like feeling like there’s some element of danger – real or imagined – to what I’m doing while I write. I remember writing a poem while I was driving down 123 in Fairfax, VA at 4 am. That was a great poem, and one I shared with Cort years later, but that doesn’t always happen. Maybe I’ve got a little Dickinson in me, secreting myself away in a corner of the house while Cort’s out checking the mail, never to know that I’ve just written a poem or two. For me, it’s less about fulfilling a basic need than succumbing to a guilty pleasure. Cort’s a creature of habit, I’m a little kinky. It works.

2) Are there any topics or themes that repeat themselves in your work?

JB: I find myself writing about loss of innocence a lot. Not in the sexual sense, or even with a feeling of sadness at its passing, but it’s there, nevertheless. This “theme” in my writing happens to be incredibly tied in with a sense of place for me, especially a place that my mother’s family used to go to every summer until I was 18, when my Grandfather finally sold the house on Newfound Lake. In fact, my whole Master’s thesis is centered around the loss of that place and the subsequent loss of my own innocence. Weirdly, the memories that I have of being in that place with my mother’s siblings and parents aren’t happy, by any stretch (we’re a bit dysfunctional to say the least), but it’s the place itself that seems to call to me still. I have great memories of my own nuclear family enjoying each other tremendously, both in and out of the water, but somehow the sale of the house in New Hampshire became enmeshed in my own mind with the slow loss of sanity that my grandmother has undergone as a result of altzheimer’s, the breast cancer my own mother battled, the degredation of my father’s spirit by years of beurocratic bullshit and my own (rather late) separation from my parents as I entered adulthood and the relationship that would turn out to be my marriage. So yeah, loss of innocence on lots of levels pops up again and again in my work, especially since I am constantly surprised at the shit the world can throw at me, even after 32 years living in it.

3) When you decided to begin writing poetry, who were your influences?

JB: First, you should know that when I started college, it was with absolutely no direction, a complete lack of any sort of plan, and it was only by the grace of the GMU admissions department that I was there at all. I applied to one school, just ‘cause, after I “graduated” from high school with a 1.7 gpa and a 790 verbal SAT score (and a 400 math.) I had just stopped playing the violin after 8 years and had turned down early admission to another university, and I was sooooooooo lost. It wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year that my advisor (having counseled me to try behavioral psych, biology, communications and journalism at one point or another, based on what I told her I liked studying) told me I could major in English. After that? Well, you know the saying. I don’t remember making the decision to write poetry, it was just always something I turned to when I needed to create something beautiful and I couldn’t bear to pick up my violin. My dad is an unbelievably beautiful writer, and I have always loved his words, so the natural extension of that love was simply to write my own. He used to say, and still does say “How do I know what I think until I write it down?” To discover that I could study words and play with them and write them and learn to make them sing AS A MAJOR . . . heaven. The first day of my creative writing workshop, I got to hear Marvin Bell read “Dorothy” to his wife, who stood with me in the back of the campus bookstore. Love at first word, that was. From there, I discovered Pablo Neruda (that was an awesome summer!), then Howard Nemerov’s “Window Pane”, Michael Ondaatje’s “Handwriting” and Margaret Atwood’s “Power Politics”, thanks to Jennifer Atkinson, my excellent teacher and mentor, and then it was on to Adrienne Rich’s “The Fact of a Doorfram”, Lucille Clifton, Robert Bly, Allen Ginsberg, Elizabeth Bishop, Gary Snyder and still more.

4) I know that your husband, the poet C L Bledsoe, writes a good deal about his youth in Arkansas. Does "place" play a big role in your work?

JB: pretty much answered this with #3

5) I have witnessed a "team reading" of the Bledsoes. A little back and forth between the two of you as you alternate reading poems. Any chance of seeing some of that on November 5, 2010 when you read at the Poetry Lab at the Soundry in Vienna, VA?

JB: I would venture to guess it won’t be too hard to get my self-deprecating husband up on stage to have fun with two of the things he loves most in this world: Writing and Me (probably in that order, too!) If there’s cheese dip involved, the man might die of bliss on the spot. We may have something special to share . . . you never can tell with the Bledsoes . . .

6) What was the first book of poetry that you bought for yourself?

JB: I think the first book of poetry I bought for myself was this awesome Penguin Pocket Anthology of Contemporary American Poets that I have since made my senior English students buy in whatever edition it is currently available. The one I bought for myself has got a light green cover and really cute, swirly writing on it, and it has every poet I’ve ever loved in it, which tells me that’s probably where I first met them. I’ve gone on so many book sprees since then, it’s hard to recall, but all my heavies are in that one volume, and it lives on my desk with my dad’s thesaurus from junior high, a copy of Lewis Thomas’ “The Medussa and the Snail” borrowed from my dad, and my favorite Shakespearean play, Titus Andronicus. If I have those books, I can count myself as one among the human race. Without them? Highly suspect