Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Telephone Dials a Crowd: Brooklyn Weekend Readings

Another September weekend extended its hand of literary appreciation the Brooklyn way. Autumn is shaping up to be anchovy-packed with these events of vivid poetry, enlivening fiction, and on-the-spot conceptualized performances. There are twenty to thirty plus readings yet to occur in Brooklyn and Manhattan by the end of the month—September attentiveness required.

Friday night was the release party for the inaugural issue of Telephone, a palm-sized seasonally released magazine devoted to the multiple translations of a solitary poet. A true myriad. The schematic of the framework for Telephone follows the notions of the children’s game where an initial phrase whispered into a neighbor’s ear gets almost Dadaistically turned around into its nonsensical opposite.

The editors of Telephone, Sharmila Cohen and Paul Legault claim: “Things are misheard. Things change. That’s the point.” They also say that they want to “bask in the general shiftiness of translation.” That’s exactly what happened at 177 Livingston Street in downtown Brooklyn on Friday night. The space is, in part (there are two other hosting groups), organized and curated by Triple Canopy in a 5,000 square foot warehouse that moderates numerous events—artist talks, lectures, musical performances, film screenings, classes, etc. They also have a pretty great library.

For this particular performance, Telephone organized an incredible consortium of readers to verbally present the majority of Issue 1. As well, an actual game of telephone went around the room of upwards to 70 or 80 people. To paraphrase (the only way to go about it), the opening line of the game, inaudibly whispered by Mary Jo Bang and ending some eighty or so ears later, had the word “German” in it. The process of the game, by the end, somehow altered that to “Russian”.

This first issue focused on translating some of the work of the poet Uljana Wolf. The order of Friday night’s readers were as follows:

For: bad-bald-bet/t-brief

Uljana Wolf

Mary Jo Bang

John Gallaher (called in on his phone, ed. Paul Legault verbally stenographed)

Eugene Ostashevsky

For: last-lied-list-log-lump

Uljana Wolf

Susan Bernofsky

Macgregor Card

John Gallaher (called in on his phone, ed. Paul Legault verbally stenographed)

For: understand-under stand

Uljana Wolf

Christian Hawkey

Eugene Ostashevsky

Nathaniel Otting

For: well e-wink-wink-wink el

Uljana Wolf

Priscilla Becker

Megan Ewing

Robert Fitterman (as conceptually enacted by ed. Sharmila Cohen)

For: zet-zoo-zu

Uljana Wolf

Priscilla Becker

Susan Bernofsky

Robert Fitterman (as conceptually enacted by ed. Sharmila Cohen)

Saturday night brought the opening of the Fall season—in its nearly two-year-run—of the Crowd Reading Series, curated by Douglas Piccinnini. Crowd has hosted innumerable established and up-and-coming poets since February of 2009, calling themselves “a community-based project that connects artists, performers and writers.”

Each Crowd reading is held in the Morgantown area (as is oft-referred by the locals) of Bushwick at Café Orwell on Varet. Café Orwell, a coffeehouse with unique food items on its menu, occasionally hosts music and performance but has been the space for Crowd since their inception. The café opened in December of 2008 and, notably, serves Stumptown coffee. Various artists’ work hangs on the walls in traditional café-style. They, as well, have a horde of books all stacked in the back of the café where a foot-or-so-tall stage lays.

Folks in the audience were certainly not disappointed by the handpicked poets and sole fiction reader that read; however, a slight bit of disenchantment spread when the rumor that there was to be no beer served came true. Café Orwell (good news!) is, nonetheless, anticipating a liquor license soon. The next Crowd reading could get a bit livelier. Otherwise, think flask.

Four authors shared the stage, each reading multiple pieces, averaging out at ten to fifteen minutes per reader. They are listed in chronological order below:

Niina Pollari (poetry)

Lauren Spohrer (fiction)

BREAK

Sara Wintz (poetry)

Michael Scharf (poetry)

Ken L. Walker