Sunday, September 10, 2006
TUPELOETICS at SPC on August 28
Tupeoloetics was the point of focus for a beautiful August evening of poetry at the Sacramento Poetry Center. Contrary to the widely held belief that poetry readings and August do not mix at SPC’s cauldron of well-forged words, the slight breeze and good will made for a lovely evening. Even with the fans turned to their lowest setting the atmosphere was very comfortable. Or maybe it was the newly painted floors done by members of the Asylum Gallery.
Tupeloetics is a group of writers [Bill Moose, Connie Gutowsky, Bill Ludington, Edythe Haendel Schwartz, Bob Stanley] who meet at The Tupelo Cafe every month to discuss their poems and hopefully make them better by sharing. After searching for a name to call their collective, the meeting place, Tupelo Cafe was the most logical choice.
Jim Moose was the first to take his place in front of the mic. He is a retired civil servant - He was a lawyer and administrative law judge in California state service for 37 years. He is the resident historian of the group, and he did not disappoint with this first poem entitled “Oh, the Joy” which was about the Lewis and Clark expedition across The Louisiana Territory, an undertaking that took many years, an undertaking so strenuous that some say it took a toll on Lewis’s sanity. His death in Tennessee in 1809 was thought by many to be a suicide. The title of the piece comes from the moment the two of them gazed upon the Pacific.
Moose’s next poem was entitled “Red Memory.” The opening premise is that a red shard becomes ensconced in the brain of the speaker. The memory is persistent and the speaker regards it as a feminine shape and the mysterious force it possesses. Then the speaker reveals that he did not such a force had been transferred to me.
“Moonlight and Roses” was set in 1945 Yokohama and told of a scene where a tenor held sway in front of packed house of GIs. The tenor sang “Moonlight and Roses” and not a dry eye was left in the house.
In “Lament” Moose spoke of a Sierra trip he’d taken which was too short for him to keep a record of it, so he wrote the poem instead.
“French Major” was a poem dedicated to a man who secretly kept his past as a leader in naval combat even though he had won the Navy Cross in WW II. The speaker of the poem learns from his obituary that he was a Harvard man, that he switched from being a French major to going into law.
Moose also read “Inheritess” which besides the coinage of a new term offered the observation that one is “not less because we can not trace our ancestors, not less for it.” This is so because the speaker states that “your ancestor is mine.”
“America the Beautiful” employed a speaker who is narrating the musical attributes to the song as it is being sung. The chords weigh in to emphasize the lines. Finally, the speaker finds his pride turns to salty tears.
Connie Gutowsky then stepped in front of the mic and declared that her poetic project is the Homemade Bread of Poetry, that is, she employs poems to find the beauty in the quotidian.
The fist poem she read was a sestina inspired by an owl entitled “What is Left?” Tears fall on a desk from the sky. A list of items appear in a liquidambar tree. Dead sculptures form a smorgasbord on the lawn. The owl lets its pellets fall from the tree in rhythm.
Gutowsky introduced the next poem as being one that was inspired by a photo taken after a picnic. In “Where from Here?” the speaker is a girl in a mirror who grows older.
“We’re Talking About” was a poem that used pieces of extraneous conversational phrases (in fact, probably, in particular, largely, potentially) and strung them together into a sound collage
“Smile and Nod” takes place on a cross-Atlantic flight where the speaker encounters the man on the left who coughs. His passport is from Iran, but then he shows the speaker pictures of his daughter, a pharmacist, in Tucson,
“Bouquet” was a triolet in honor of Al that began with opening image of applesauce on a book.
Gutowsky ended with a sonnet entitled “Shredders” that was attack on the bulk mail industry and its invasive means of entering a home.
Edythe Haendel Schwartz
Edythe Haendel Schwartz then took her place before the crowd and read
”Lacunae”, a poem she had recently published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). She informed the crowd that it is a villanelle written in terza rima.
“Habanera” was a tribute to the Carmen aria and Schwartz’s grandmother whose collection of librettos is discovered, the one of Caruso at the Met in 1936 in particular. The speaker ranges over a number of meditations on the woman’s presence and now absence, finally acknowledging the woman’s love for Carmen.
In ”The Conchologist and the Shoemaker” Schwartz offered that she heard this conversation between a blind UC Davis conchologist and the man at the shoe repair shop. It was a piece that arrived to her out of this moment.
The next piece that she read was a tribute to the Port Orchard Snapping Turtle whose shotgun approach to birthing the next generation left the ping pong-like ball eggs with “odds no better than ours.”
In “Chromatic,” a sonnet in tribute to an interracial couple, the speaker notes that it is impossible to live without skin.
“Reprieve” features a bird that has struck its head on a window and an opportunistic cat waits for its reward as the bird’s heart flutters grace notes and then its wings extend.
In “Swimmer at Master’s Club” Lucille Barry (1910-2005) is the voice in the poem. Her feet are ticking in a 4/4 beat. She flips for a final turn, her pelvis fit with pins. The swim is a metaphor for the life struggled through with prize going to the one who remains alive.
Bob Stanley was the last reader for the evening. He started off with an unnamed poem that implored the listener to “choose who you are” and ended with notion that “everyone should know who they are.”
In “At the Center” Stanley used a number of short phrases and images to produce a collage effect that invited the reader to “spin downward with me.”
In “Trip” Stanley looks at his father, to a time when his father had lost his job, to a time before he could understand.
The nest poem Stanley read was a tribute to the vagaries of the syllabus. It borrowed key words and phrases that were recognizable as syllabus verbiage. The speaker comes to the realization at the end that he must get off the syllabus, the prescribed road map that is never very good at dealing with specific individual concerns in the class.
“In Transit” was arranged around a speaker who was traveling and missed the turn off, only to realize that in trying to regain his position, he was traveling once again.
“What It’s About?” was about the speaker’s senior tripand featured reflections on a friend’s dad who died of leukenia.
In “Morsel” Stanley’s speaker advises, “write about love but not about walnuts.”
Finally, in “Sweet Fire” a poem that Stanley wrote after his recent trip to China, the speaker merges great figures in Chinese history, such as the First Emperor of Chin with jazz legends like Charlie Parker until there is a very mixed ensemble of cats putting it out there for everyone to hear.