Last night, a Sunday evening dash across the Bay Bridge to make it to the 21 Grand Gallery Reading: It was an evening of poetry as even on my drive across the Bay, on our local NPR station,KALW, Claudia Rankine read and talked about some of her work as the steel girders and fog swallowed me.
Brandon Brown and Alli Warren sat looking happy as they presided over the evening's events.
First up: Ara Shirinyan whose bio reads: Ara Shirinyan was born in 1977 in, what was then, the Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia. Since 1987, he has lived in Los Angeles, where he writes, teaches, and is editor of Make Now Press. His first book Syria is in the World was published by Palm Press in June 2007. Speech Genres 1-2 is available as an electronic download from UbuWeb. Handsome Fish Offices was published earlier this year by Insert Press. He is also the author of Your Country is Great, also published in 2008 by Futurepoem Books. With the group Godzik Pink, he released two CDs (Es Em, Ekele Em and Black Broccoli) on Kill Rock Stars/5rc. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Word Ways, UbuWeb, Greetings, Trepan, Combo, Area Sneaks, Tuli & Savu among others.
Ara read from a series of poems which must be from his collection Your Country is Great. He read from "Mugabe is Great," "Libya is Great," "Haiti is Great," "Israel is Great" and others. These poems wryly engaged with and undercut the emptyness and overdetermined in "great" in the context of various national settings. Ara also read briefly from a book--Handsome Fish Offices--that finds its source material in an Office Depot catalog and another book about tropical fish. I liked this work in particular and would have enjoyed hearing more of it.
Here's what Juliana Spahr and Mark Wallace have to say about this book (these quotes from Anathematas web site.)
Praise for Handsome Fish Offices by Ara Shirinyan:
While office supply products and tropical fish might at first thought seem to have nothing to do with one another, once side by side they reveal the interconnections between global acquisitions, multinational capital, and environmental destruction. - Juliana Spahr
Of cut-up writing, in which different textual sources are spliced together, often jarringly, William Burroughs once said, “The results will look a lot like you.” Handsome Fish Offices, Ara Shirinyan’s book of profoundly 21st century cut-ups, takes up this insight with hilarity and irreverence, showing readers how the world looks like them, and they look like the world. No matter whose language he’s playing with, the startling juxtapositions of words in these poems reveal the contemporary global condition of being incorporated and measured, invariably down to the smallest detail. “This laterally flattened species is ideal / For catalogs, direct mail, promotions, etc,” he writes, and you’ll know what he means, because your species, too—and right now—is one of the many getting flattened. -Mark Wallace
Then, after Ara read and we had a brief break to chat, Brandon presented Jocelyn Saidenberg and Cynthia Sailers' play, Wild Analysis. Here's Brandon.
Jocelyn's bio: Jocelyn is the author of Mortal City (Parentheses Writing Series), CUSP (Kelsey St. Press), Negativity (Atelos), and Dispossessed (Belladonna). Born and raised in New York City, she lives in San Francisco where she works as a catalog librarian for the public library.
Here's the cast and the scene titles from Wild Analysis:
Katchie, yoga teacher and spiritual guide, played by Stephanie Young
Cynthia Sailers played by Cynthia Sailers
Jocelyn Saidenberg played by Jocelyn Saidenberg
Cynthia Sailers' alter ego played by Chris Chen
Jocelyn Saidenberg's alter ego played by David Brazil
Doctor Glenn Finch, couples therapist and dog trainer, played by Bob Gluck
Reese Adams-Romangoli appeared in the audience as a yoga student with a question for his teacher!
Scene One: Buns, Buns, Buns
Katchie's Yoga Class--Stephanie, you had me convinced. Can I take your next yoga class?!
Jocelyn and Cynthia did downward facing dogs with their alter egos--David and Chris--shadowing them.
Scene Two: The Couples Whisperer
Office of Glenn Finch, MD. I think this might have been Bob's stage debut--at least it was the first time I'd seen him on stage and we want more!
Scene Three: Pillow Talk
Post Poetry Reading
Jocelyn, Cynthia and their alter-egos in bed discussing the reading and not discussing their relationship. David and Chris stole this scene, dancing and embracing while Jocelyn and Cynthia were tired and hungry.
Final Scene: Out Takes
Casting Cynthia's alter ego
What men from the poetry community might be cast as Cynthia's alter ego--David Buuck, Japser Bernes, Brent Cunningham....?
Here's some photos of the fun:
Stephanie as Katchie:
A good time was had by all.