On April 6, I read at the Harlow Gallery for the opening reception of “Occupy Art! Union of Maine Visual Artists in Action.” UMVA is a powerhouse of brilliance: a continuous flashpoint of geniuses, leaders, fabulous thinkers and devastating artists who have attained national attention.
I discuss some of these immense artists here:
Owl on Natasha Mayers, Kenny Cole, Robert Shetterly
It was a splendid magical night. Get more details at these links, if you wish:
Occupy Art! at the Harlow
Maine Arts Scene Announcement
At the heart of downtown Hallowell, in a well-lit room with glistened wood floors, four poets read to a crowd of over a hundred people as the walls spoke silently from numerous drawings, sketches, silkscreens and sculptures of anti-war/anti-greed art.
First up was Mark Melnicove, high school teacher and well-known Maine poet, who swooned into an eloquent tirade written just for this occasion. No doubt he put in many tears and much sweat. The serpentine opus was at least six pages long, but seemed to melt away into the suspenseful air, borne on a fleet spell, which melded together fine wordplay, devastating critique and occasional riffs of high-impact rhyme. This hypnotic holism accused our culture of shallow ridiculousness while fattening a mentality of gross greed. It easily curved to conclusion within the ten minutes allotted to each poet; and the crowd applauded with might, caught up in the crescendo of indignation gaining throughout the piece.
Next was Henry Braun, a true legend who worked with Robert Lowell and other immortal names. His many experiences and achievements include a longstanding presence as an activist wordsmith, a brave bard who has spoken out beautifully and mordantly over many decades. He has taught at prestigious universities and edited at one of the greatest journals of all time, Beloit Poetry Journal.
Braun came in satiric dress, clothed as a rich one-percenter, complete with full-suited regalia, including a fancy hat. Half-way through his reading, he adroitly changed costum to become an exploited bluecollarman; the poem he was reading took a dark turn into the tale of a factory girl whose scalp sloughed off into the mechanical maw of a textile machine.
His antics combined with eloquence in just the right way. We were all stung and moved.
Third was Lee Sharkey, one of Maine’s very best poets. She is one of the two current editors at Beloit Poetry Journal, and recently won a major grant from Maine Arts Commission. Her latest book, A Darker, Sweeter String, is devastatingly good (google it to see the commotion) and she continues to get topnotch publications, such as her appearance this year in Crazyhorse.
Before reading her impeccable poetry, Sharkey revealed something I didn’t know: Adrienne Rich was her mentor for 40 years. If you know anything about the poetry world, you have probably heard that Adrienne Rich died this month, and you surely know that Rich is one of the greatest voices in poetry of all time.
See my eulogy here:
Rage Is Good
You have to hear Sharkey’s poems to get any kind of sense of how good and achingly fresh they are. As I listened, I was pulled to scan the artwork on the walls. Also rising up in me was the beautiful presence of Adrienne Rich. My eyes grew wet and when it was my turn to read, I became quite emotional.
All I will say is that I ranted a bit before took out my poems, and the crowd applauded here and there. As I type this blog entry, relatively calm in my room, it is difficult for me to recall just what I said.
In any case, I read three poems: one on war, one on Big Pharma’s life-taking avarice, and one on the denial and anxiety that have settled into the minds of the Empire’s citizens, thick as a blight of psychological smog.
It was a major and magnificent night, lush with powers of the heart. An event where humanity showed its most urgent desire to attain a just society.
If the gods were watching, or the UFO’s, I hope they saw that some of us, at least, are really, really trying.